If your friend or loved one is experiencing depression, you will want to try to help. If you haven’t experienced depression yourself, you may feel like you don’t know how to act and worry about what you should or shouldn’t say or do. If you’re concerned that they’re at risk of harming themselves or taking their own life, please contact 999, take them to A&E or contact their GP or the mental health crisis team and please stay with them.
In this blog, we’ve pulled together our tips on how to support a friend or loved one with depression.
1. Try to understand what depression is
Depression is a serious and devastating illness, it’s not just feeling sad for a few days. Depression is deep distress and constant negative thoughts, it’s feeling hopeless, worthless and unable to cope. Depression can make a usually simple task like brushing your teeth feel completely overwhelming and unachievable. Severe depression can make an individual feel that life is not worth living.
Depression can be triggered by life events and circumstances but it can also occur for no apparent reason. Depression can also occur in conjunction with other mental health issues or addictions. People can often try to hide their depression from others or appear at times to be functioning normally, this does not mean that they are not suffering deeply.
To try to help your friend or loved one with depression, you must understand that the recovery process is not easy, the person may feel hopeless and worthless and that everything is pointless. It is also important to recognise that it can be difficult for people close to them who are trying to help. Supporting them is more than just being sympathetic, it’s also trying to understand the way they are feeling and acting.
2. Check the signs and symptoms
Symptoms of depression are not linear and this list is not exhaustive.
- Low mood
- Low self esteem
- Feeling worthless and hopeless
- Low energy and motivation/fatigue
- Anxiety or worry
- Irritability or anger
- A reduced interest in usual hobbies and activities
- Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
- Lack of appetite or overeating
- Difficulty in focusing and concentrating
- Physical aches and pains
- Reduced libido
- Experiencing thoughts of self harm or of taking their life
For further information on symptoms : https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/clinical-depression/symptoms/
If you’re unsure if your loved one has depression or they’re unsure themselves, you or they can access the questionnaire on NHS Every Mind Matters. Click here to access it.
3. Let them know that they are not alone
Even if they don’t want to open up to you, just letting them know that you’re there whenever they want someone to listen can make a big difference. Remember to check in with them regularly. Make sure they have your emergency contacts and try to always pick up the phone if they call.
Letting them know that you’re there for them might make it easier for them to open up. It might help them feel less alone and realise they don’t need to suffer on their own and can reach out for the support they need.
4. Listen without offering advice
Often people who are depressed either don’t know they are or feel ashamed about being open with others. Let them know that you’re there to listen without judging, even if you personally can’t relate to what they’re going through. For people suffering with depression, the first step towards recovery is talking to someone non-judgemental about what they’re experiencing.
Let them speak openly about how they’re feeling and don’t press your opinions or advice as to how they should manage it on to them.
- Ask them how they are, ask open questions and listen fully
- After listening, take a moment to imagine how that must feel for them
- Acknowledge the struggle they must be going through without trying to fix it
- Ask questions to understand what is happening from their perspective
- Let them know that you’re always there to listen
- It’s okay and potentially invaluable to ask about their thoughts, are they thinking of harming themselves? Have they thought about taking their life? What protects them from acting on these thoughts? What can we do to together to help to keep you safe?
- If you have any concerns about their safety please seek professional help for them immediately even if they are resistant to this
5. Ask what you can do to support them
Different people deal with things in different ways and a person with depression may not know how you can help, but asking them is a start. Some people may need a shoulder to cry on or a listening ear, but supporting them also might simply mean sitting with them to keep them company, offering to help with daily errands such as the food shop or contacting their GP for them.
Help with the things they say they need help with, you may feel like you want to do all that you can to help, but respecting their boundaries is important.
6. Keep inviting them to events
Even if they turn down every invitation, don’t stop including them in events or occasions with friends and family. One day they may feel that they can participate. Inviting them may help to reinforce the idea that they have people who care about them. Reassure them that it’s okay if they decline the invitation, that there is no pressure on them to attend.
7. Offer to help them get professional support
However hard you try to help your loved one, it maybe that you feel it is not making a difference and you continue to be very concerned about their mental wellbeing and safety. It can be hard to suggest that your loved one seeks professional help but this is often the most important step in their recovery. Try to make the suggestion without telling them what to do, explaining that professional support will be non-judgemental and they have choices throughout.
A good place to start is visiting their GP. GPs can offer support and advice and can refer to local services which are in place to specifically help people on their recovery from depression. A GP may suggest medication and this may be a very useful support alongside talking therapies.
If they don’t want to go to see their GP it may be beneficial to have a free consultation call with a krysallis therapist, or contact a helpline such as the Samaritans. At krysallis we offer online therapy and help to people from around the world.
8. Don’t compromise your own mental health
If you’re finding it difficult to help your friend or loved one with depression, remember to create your own boundaries and that self care is very important. Depression can understandably be tough for those close to the person too and you don’t want to negatively impact your own mental health. We cannot truly be fully responsible for another adult, they also have responsibility and choices.
If you’re struggling to help a friend or loved one with depression, send us an email or give us a call (+44 1423 857939) and we can offer bespoke advice and support.
Depression can destroy lives. At krysallis we care and it is our mission to help as many people through depression as possible. We offer a range of services including integrative counselling and CBT, these provide you with support and coping strategies to enable you to manage and overcome depression.
Would you like to find out how krysallis might help you or a loved one with depression? Fill out our contact us form and a member of the team will be in touch to help.