Although healthcare professionals know a lot more about depression that they did even a couple of years ago, it still remains a condition that everyone affected by it struggles to deal with.
Despite the fact that medications, counselling and support groups have been invaluable when it comes to recovery, there is still very little help available for the loved ones of sufferers. Ironically, the support of friends, family and colleagues is possibly the most important thing that people with depression need so if you’re struggling to cope yourself, below are just some of the ways you can help.
Watching someone going through depression can leave you feeling confused, frustrated, distraught and like you’re treading on eggshells because you’re scared of further upsetting the person. Understandably, over time this can become overwhelming and people tend to take on one of two approaches. Either they remain silent because they simply don’t know what to say and how to act or they themselves become irritable, frustrated and even resentful towards the sufferer.
One of the best and most effective techniques that can be used during this difficult time is simply to be there for the person. Deborah Serani, a psychologist who struggled with depression herself commented:
“When I was struggling with my own depression, the most healing moments came when someone I loved simply sat with me while I cried or wordlessly held my hand or spoke to me warmly with statements like ‘you’re so important to me’, ‘tell me what I can do to help’ and ‘we’re going to find a way to help you feel better’”.
If you struggle with emotional expression, there are a number of things you can do to show your support in other ways. Small gestures such as sending a card or a text or cooking a nice meal shows that you care and vitally, provides a loving connection and a beacon of light that may seem insignificantly small to you but can have a huge impact on the recovery of someone who is feeling very low.
When someone is suffering from depression, their thoughts and emotions are incredibly vulnerable and therefore what you say can have a powerful impact on them. No matter how fed up or frustrated you feel, do not snap or pass judgement. From ‘it’s all in your head’ to ‘how can you be depressed when you have a nice home/good job/great friends?’ - these words can be very destructive and will simply isolate your loved one even more.
One of the key things to remember when supporting someone with depression is to be patient. It will take time - possibly a long time and your patience is an integral part of their recovery. Let your loved one know that you are there for them and ask what you can do to help and assert that it doesn’t matter how long it takes, you will be there for them regardless. With such patience comes hope and when you have depression, hope can be very hard to come by.