How to Help a Loved One With Depression

 

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

How to Help a Loved One With Depression

 

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.

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TAKING TIME TO PROCESS TRAUMATIZNG EVENTS

How to Help a Loved One With Depression

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 to Help a Loved One With Depression

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

and others.

 

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

isolation.

 

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

them

 

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

 

Be Patient

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

supportive

 

How to Help a Loved One With Depression

LESSONS LEARNED

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.

 

 

16 thoughts on “How to Help a Loved One With Depression”

  1. I’m so glad you wrote this article. My mother suffered from depression and it was very hard on me and my brother growing up. Even as an adult it still was difficult. In retrospect, I think if I would have taken more time to understand what she was going through, I would have been able to deal with it a lot better.

    Reply
    • Hi James

      Thank you for your comment. I’m sorry to hear that you experienced that as a child. I too grew up in an environment where depression was present and it had an impact on me. It’s hard to fully understand it as a child. But as an adult, I knew I was going to become more knowledgeable about the illness and support those around me suffering. I myself have experienced mild depression episodes and know that we are all susceptible to it.

      All the best to you,

      Tracy

      Reply
  2. depression is a topic that we don’t really like to talk about. I know some people that are depressed back home. Usually they’re depressed about their job or the way their life is going. You can think of in a plethora of different reasons for people to be depressed. But how do you handle their depression. I think that that’s something that people really need to talk about and have a discussion about. I really like your blog.

    Reply
    • Hi Mike

      Thanks for commenting. You’re right, many people suffer from depression and there are several risk factors that can come into play, such as biochemistry, genetics, personality and environmental. The good news is that depression is a treatable illness that usually involves patience and the proper treatment which will vary from person to person.

      All the best to you

      Tracy

      Reply
  3. You are absolutely right, learning about this condition is key in helping someone. I have a close friend going through a really tough time. I am there for her, but not there. She is 4 hours from me, and I worry for her. I call her often just to be a listener. Thank you for this thoughtful post. I will be reaching out to her today.

    Reply
    • Hi Cherise
      Thank you for your comment. Please do reach out to her, and ensure there are people around her who are aware of how she’s feeling as well, it can be very stressful being so far away from our loved ones when they’re feeling so unwell.

      All the best

      Tracy

      Reply
    • Hi Natilie

      Thank you for your kind comment. Knowing the signs of depression is important and if we are supporting our loved ones through depression, self-care is key to helping others.

      All the best

      Tracy

      Reply
  4. Wow, I am so sorry you experienced this. You are an awesome person, a true friend; to be there for someone who needed you at their lowest. I know it can be hard to be there and see a loved one struggle.

    Reply
    • Hi Darlene

      Thank you for your kind words. It certainly is difficult to watch a loved one suffer but I find that focusing on supporting the person to make their life less stressful, whether it be from preparing and freezing meals so that dinner time doesn’t seem so stressful, or helping to structure chore plan for the kids, or just listening is the best way we can help someone through their dark times.
      But most importantly, we can’t forget about ourselves, we need to ensure we continue to do all the things we love and bring us joy.

      Thank you again for your comment

      All the Best

      Tracy

      Reply
  5. As someone who has dealt with depression, in both myself and my wife, I know how much support is needed to help get a person who is suffering through it. I hope your friend is doing well now and has gotten the help she needed! I think that out of the advice you give, for us, getting access to mental health professionals is huge along with being willing to listen. Sometimes we get so caught up in trying to fix a problem that we forget to listen. That’s when people start feeling like they aren’t understood and can actually deepen the depression. 

    Thanks for the great post!

    Reply
    • Hi Steve,

      Thank you for your comment.  I couldn’t agree with you more – access to mental health support and listening is crucial.  My friend is doing well, thank you.  She’s connected with trained professionals who are better suited to help her with her illness.  I listen and do what I can to help eliminate stresses.

      Al the Best

      Tracy 

      Reply
  6. Bless your heart, you saved a life. You did what you could given the fact that you were two hours away. 

    In some cases, depression and it’s symptoms like fatigue, apathy, insomnia, digestive issues and many more can be traced to low levels of Serotonin and Dopamine. Doctors often prescribe anti-depressants which don’t address the source of the problem

    Sunny

    Reply
    • Hi Sunny

      I appreciate you taking the time to comment.  I agree, medication alone doesn’t solve the problem, I’m a believer that if medication is needed, it should be prescribed alongside Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.  Sometimes in some cases, natural remedies aren’t enough and medication is needed.

      All the Best

      Tracy 

      Reply
  7. I personally understand that looking forward to creating a healthy environment should be the first step (tobacco, drugs, and alcohol-free).  Love is the biggest strength on earth, expressing our feeling to those we love will provide the needed courage to overcome any situation. 

    We need to remember everyone is different. Never try to anticipate that you know what’s going on within other people’s minds (not even when you know them very well). Looking forward to keeping active is great, but never force too much.

    After a suicidal thought appeared, it’s natural for the depressed person to feel tempted again in any given moment in the future, they also may feel ashamed and sad of admitting about having these types of thoughts. 

    I guess we would get surprised about how many of us have gotten this time of thought on any given time in our lives. Have you been tempted to kill yourself in any moment in your past?

    Reply
    • Hi Juan

      Thank you for sharing your insights on this particular topic.  You’ve provided some valuable facts, and yes my friend has had thoughts since she’s been home and getting her treatment plan established.  I’m happy to say that when she did have those thoughts she called her doctor right away and mental health counselor who saw her immediately.  I was so proud that she reached out for the support she knew she needed, it certainly took a great deal of strength for her to reach out. 

      I have had bouts of depression throughout my life however have always been lucky enough to get through it with therapy and great support systems.

      I appreciate your feedback

      All the Best

      Tracy 

      Reply

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