5 Ways to Help a Loved One with Depression
Depression is one of the most common mental health issues in the US. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, around 17.3 million American adults suffered from an episode of major depression in 2017. That’s more than seven percent of all American adults. Depression is even more common among adolescents between ages 12 and 17. About 13 percent of teens suffered an episode of depression in 2017, nearly twice the rate of adults. What’s more, teens are much less likely to get help for depression. While 35 percent of adults with depression don’t receive treatment, 60 percent of teens don’t get treatment.
It can be difficult to live with someone with depression, whether it’s a spouse, a child, or a sibling. Depression can make you irritable, withdrawn, short-tempered, and generally unlike yourself. It’s also hard to see a loved one unhappy. If someone close to you has depression, here some ways you can help.
Know the symptoms.
First, it’s important to know the symptoms of depression. Many people have a mistaken picture of what depression is like. Images that typically come to mind are someone feeling sad or mopey and possibly sleeping a lot. In reality, depression can manifest in different ways, with a range of possible symptoms. Those symptoms may include low mood, loss of interest in things they used to enjoy, poor concentration, lack of motivation, irritability, restlessness, sleeping too little or too much, sudden weight changes, fatigue, slow movements, feelings of worthlessness, physical aches, rumination, and thoughts of death or suicide.
While there are no hard rules about how people experience depression, men tend to become irritable or even aggressive rather than sad and they may also engage in risky behavior or self-medicate with drugs or alcohol. Depression in teens may show up as dropping grades, getting into fights or other kinds of trouble, or using drugs or alcohol. What appears to be common teenage rebellion may be a symptom of depression.
Encourage them to get help.
Normally, when someone is sick, they want to get help but that’s not always the case with depression. Depression changes your thinking in ways that make you less likely to seek help. For example, people with depression may not seek help because they feel like it won’t make any difference or they don’t feel like they deserve to get better. Depression can make you feel both pessimistic and worthless. You may have to ask them to get help as a favor to you, even if they think there’s no point.
Depression can also be debilitating, making your loved one feel like they couldn’t get help if they wanted to. Getting help requires finding a suitable therapist or treatment program, making appointments, and following through with treatment. That may not seem like that much work, but to someone with depression it can feel overwhelming, especially if you don’t think it will make a difference anyway. Anything you can do to facilitate your loved one getting treatment is a big help. They might not get help at all if you’re not at least willing to go through the process with them and take care of some practical issues like making appointments and arranging transportation.
Living with someone with depression can be very frustrating. They may be irritable or unresponsive. It may be just hard seeing them suffer. There are several important things to keep in mind. First, your loved one doesn’t want to be depressed. You may feel concerned, annoyed, or neglected, but they feel really miserable and they don’t want to feel that way. They may also feel quite bad about making you feel bad, which can contribute to the feeling that the world might be better without them.
Second, depression typically doesn’t last forever. An episode of depression lasts two weeks at the very least and may stretch on for months but there will typically be a break at some point. Only a small percentage of depression cases are really persistent and proper treatment can make an episode shorter.
Third, treatment takes a little time to work. Depression is typically treated with psychotherapy, sometimes with the help of medication. Both of these take a little time. SSRI antidepressants typically take about six weeks to start working. Psychotherapy might actually start working a little sooner but even so, it takes some practice to get in the habit of thinking differently.
Do things together.
It’s normal for people with depression to want to isolate themselves. Unfortunately, this can make their symptoms even worse. Socializing, on the other hand, can create a sense of connection, which often helps them feel better. Invite them to do things, even if they often decline or don’t show up. It’s important they know you value their company. Don’t force them to interact, especially if that interaction requires too much work. Just stay in touch and let them know they’re always welcome.
Don’t neglect self-care.
When you’re trying to support someone with depression, you may feel like you’re having to do more than your share–of the chores, of paying the bills, or providing emotional support. It can be stressful and tiring, even if you are willing to do whatever it takes to support your loved one. Don’t forget that recovering from depression takes a prolonged, consistent effort. If you want to be supportive, you have to take care of yourself too. Make sure you take time to relax, to do things you enjoy, and possibly see a therapist or join a support group yourself. Also, make sure to take care of the basics like getting plenty of sleep, eating healthy, and getting regular exercise.
It’s not always easy to know how best to help a depressed loved one. At Patrick Hart Consultants, we provide a number of different services to fit the needs of each individual client. Among these, are helping you choose a treatment provider, helping you develop a treatment plan, helping you establish post-treatment support, and ensuring continuity among the different elements of treatment. Contact us today at 844-2627970 or Info@PatrickHartConsultants.com or explore our website for more information.