What’s our role when supporting the ones we love? What if we can’t help them through their struggles and things don’t turn out the way we had hoped?
Many of us have loved ones in our lives who need our help during bouts of depression and dark times, and maybe we even need it from our loved ones from time to time, but have you ever wondered how to help a loved one with depression?
People who suffer from depression typically have no motivation, feel sad, unwell, and have a loss of interest in people and activities and, chances are you know someone who is experiencing some of these symptoms.
It can be easy to get caught up in trying to help someone we love, but we have to remember that we will not fix the problem.
Helping our loved ones through difficult times can be taxing and exhausting and taking time out for ourselves shouldn’t leave us feeling guilty.
THE UNEXPECTED GOOD-BYE TEXT
Establishing a plan between you and your loved one when supporting them through depression is essential. It’s important that we provide an environment that they can express their feelings without being judged or invalidated.
This hit home for me when someone close to me who had been suffering from depression and anxiety for many years and attempted to take her own life.
I knew she had struggled with depression and abnormal thoughts for several years however our plan was that she’d call me when she was having these thoughts and we’d chat it through which was usually enough to minimize the abnormal thoughts and make her feel better.
Three months ago, on my way home from work I received a text which I didn’t open immediately as I was driving. It was about 30 minutes after the text came in that I had gotten a chance to read it.
It was a goodbye text from this person which was a shocker, seeing as I thought things were fine. We’d always talk (I’d mostly listen) when she was having these thoughts, but not this time. My gut instinct told me something wasn’t right.
I immediately called her trying desperately to reach her, I was sent to voicemail, I called again, in a panic state, again no answer. I immediately contacted emergency services and sent them to her location. I live 2 hours away from her and had no contacts of others around her.
When they arrived, they had found that she overdosed on prescription medication and wouldn’t have awoken if they hadn’t gotten there when the did.
Traumatized myself somewhat after what had happened, this was something that I always knew might happen but never could fully prepare myself for it. I rushed to be by her side and after 3 days in hospital, she was released.
I stayed with her for an additional week helping out with responsibilities and doing whatever I could to take away some of the stresses.
We spent the next week getting her connected to appropriate supports (which she was never opened to previously) and continued daily check-ins, which have since moved to weekly check-ins. This was the new plan established so that I could continue to support her as best I could as far away as I was.
TAKING TIME TO PROCESS TRAUMATIZNG EVENTS
There’s no question that our priority is to take care of ourselves which is key in supporting the ones we love through challenging times.
When events such as this one occur, it may be natural to want to pull back and we shouldn’t feel guilty for that. For me, I knew this person had amazing friends (who now knew what she was struggling with) and she was connected with professional supports.
I still wanted to support her but stepping back was necessary for my own well being.
I needed to take the time for myself to think about the events that happened and process it. I had experienced so many emotions, I was hurt she didn’t call me as she normally would’ve and saddened by the deep pain she must have been going through.
I was angry that she let her illness get to this point without taking more of an active role to get help before it got to this point.
I had questions, “WHAT IF I HADN’T CALLED THE EMERGENCY SERVICES WHEN I DID”? “HOW MUCH MORE TIME DID SHE HAVE”? HOW WOULD I HAVE FELT IF THINGS DIDN’T TURN OUT THE WAY THEY DID”?
I internalized the events and thought to myself, I should’ve done more, but what more could I have done?
I needed time to process everything and to focus on my self-care to get myself back on track.
WHAT CAN WE DO HELP SUPPORT THOSE WE LOVE
How do we know if we’ve done enough? Could we have done more to help those that we love who are struggling. Three months after getting that haunting text, I still ask myself these questions.
I remind myself that we are no one’s savior, we will not fix the problem. By helping the ones we love through challenging times the best way (and only way) we can help is by doing the following:
Encourage the person to get or stick to accessing treatment
Remind them to take their medication, continue therapy sessions and
keep medical appointments
Be Willing to Listen
When the person is wanting to talk about how they’re feeling
It’s important to listen without giving opinions or advice. Sometimes
just being heard and understood can be a great healing session
Help Create a Low-Stress Environment
By assisting with a scheduled routine so that medications are taken at
the same time every day, the person is getting enough sleep and a proper
diet can also help to lessen stress. Make a list to prioritize household duties
Giving Positive Reinforcement
Ensure to consistently provide positive reinforcement to your loved one
they may be feeling down on themselves or not feeling good enough, ensure to
reminding them of all their positive qualities and how much they mean to you
Help them Locate Appropriate Organizations for Professional Support
Whether the person is ready to reach out or not for help, ensuring that they have
all the information for appropriate organizations such as location, contact numbers
and services each organization offers is necessary so that when they are able to
reach out, they’ll have no question about who to call.
Attend appointments with them if necessary for extra support
Encourage Activity with the Person
Go for a walk, take in a movie, go shopping whatever the person might be
willing to do to get out of the house and involved in activities and out of
Take All Signs of Suicidal Behavior Seriously and Act Immediately
When thoughts of suicide become present, ensure you take immediate action
and call emergency services. If your loved one struggles with severe depression you
should prepare yourself that they could very well have thoughts of suicide and put
a plan in place
Click on the video below to learn more about how we can best support the ones we love who are struggling with depression
KEY TAKEAWAYS FOR SUPPORTING YOUR LOVED ONE
Here are 3 things you should remember if you’re helping a loved one through dark challenging times
Knowledge is Key – Learn about Depression
the more you know about what causes
depression and how it affects a person the better equipped you’ll be in helping
Take care of yourself
Ask family and friends to assist in supporting your loved one if possible to avoid
exhaustion and burnout. Be sure to continue to do all the things necessary to maintain your
wellness, spend time doing the hobbies or activities that you enjoy, spend time with friends, meditate
whatever it is that you get enjoyment from
Depression can be debilitating and can take time for a person to find the right treatment plan
to work toward becoming well and it can be a long process. Remain empathetic, patient and
No plan is full proof, expect the unexpected. Below are some lessons I’ve learned throughout my experience that I’ve since implemented into my current plan in the event that the unexpected occurs again.
Know the Person’s physical address (in the event that you have to contact emergency services)
If they drive, know the make and model of their vehicle (if emergency services have difficulty locating the address – having a physical description of the vehicle could be helpful in locating the person)
If you are supporting from afar, ensure that someone who lives close to this person is familiar with their situation and is on your speed dial
Take a guilt-free time out for yourself
BREAKING IT ALL DOWN
Supporting a loved one through depression and suicidal thoughts can be very taxing but the better equipped you are in knowing the signs and having a plan in place the more you are able to act immediately.
If you’re supporting a loved one during their dark challenging time, be patient, empathetic and compassionate. It takes time for treatment to take effect and often treatment plans will have to be altered several times before one is found that will help your loved one.
Suicidal thoughts should always be taken seriously and acted upon immediately.
Depending on the severity of your loved one’s depression, never try to take it on alone. Ask for help from family or friends to avoid burnout and exhaustion. Be sure to always maintain time for yourself by continuing to do all the things that bring you enjoyment.
Always remember – you are not anyone’s savior, you will not fix the problem your loved one is dealing with, you can only be supportive and empathetic.
If you are supporting a loved one with depression or mental health struggles of any kind and would like to learn more about what you can do and how to develop a supportive plan you can click here and obtain professional information from the Mayo Clinic.
Let me know if you’ve ever supported a loved one who was struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts by commenting below. What recommendations would you provide that might not have been mentioned in this post. I’d love to hear your feedback.