When someone about whom you care is struggling with depression, it can be difficult to know how to best support them. Depression can be confusing to those who have not experienced it, but there are many ways that you can help.
Listen and Validate
People who are struggling with depression need the opportunity to feel, process, and name their emotions. You can provide highly valuable support by creating a space for your loved one to share their feelings. Depression is often marked by feelings of isolation, so connecting with someone and making them feel seen and heard is important. Social support is vital to emotional wellbeing.
Strive to validate rather than correct others’ emotions. Strive to affirm their experience. Studies have shown that acceptance helps diffuse negative emotions, while rejecting or attempting to alter negative feelings exacerbates them. According to Newsweek, “a 2012 study undertaken at the University of Queensland and published in the journal Emotion found that when people think others expect them to not feel negative emotions, they end up feeling more negative emotions.”
Rather than trying to intervene and change what someone is feeling in the moment, approach their emotions with compassion and empathy. Keep in mind that people experiencing deep emotional pain typically lack the capacity for problem-solving. If you’re holding space to listen, avoid offering tactical or practical solutions. Instead of trying to direct or control the other person’s healing, focus on making them feel heard and validated. Offering practical assistance will be more effective outside of scenarios in which you are acting as a listener.
Make Specific Offers
Remember, depression is an illness. People who struggle with depression often must devote vast amounts of energy to complete tasks that are a part of baseline functioning. You can help by offering specific types of support. Offering to pick up groceries, cook, take out the trash, do the laundry, or vacuum can lift a large burden off of your loved one. It’s also helpful to offer rides, especially to appointments.
You can also offer to help them research treatments. This could mean looking into new therapies, or simply helping them find a suitable therapist in their area if they don’t already have one. Because the healthcare system can be difficult and overwhelming to navigate, acting as a resource in this way can be incredibly helpful.
Making specific offers is important because a depressed person might fear burdening you by asking for help. The question, “is there anything I can do?” can be overwhelming and induce feelings of hopelessness. By making a specific offer, you are taking the onus off the other person to make demands and also clearly outlining what you are able to provide.
Take Care of Yourself
Caring for yourself will ensure that you are able to be patient, attentive, and available during the times that you are giving support. Taking care of yourself can involve exercise, eating well, meditating, seeing a therapist, or focusing on hobbies and activities that you find fulfilling. Focus on your personal goals, and spend time cultivating your life independently.
Setting up a consistent schedule of when you will provide support for someone else is another useful self-care tactic. Setting expectations is helpful, and a consistent schedule will provide stability and routine for both you and the person you are supporting.
Learn About Depression
Learning about depression and how it is experienced by patients will improve your ability to give support. Increasing your awareness of depression and the ways in which it manifests will help you provide more informed, empathetic care and better understand your loved one’s behavior.
It’s also important to learn about the warning signs and risks for suicidal behavior. Learn about what resources are available for intervention. Take any mention of suicide seriously. If you notice warning signs of suicidal behavior, call a suicide prevention hotline or take your loved one to an emergency room. Involve a professional therapist or psychiatrist if the patient has one.
Mid City TMS Can Help
Learning about TMS and suggesting it as a possible treatment option can be one of the best ways you can help a loved one with depression. TMS is an effective treatment for depression and has shown impressive results in patients with treatment-resistant depression. To learn more about TMS, visit our FAQ page or contact us today. We are happy to help you decide if TMS is the right choice for you or your loved one.