We have talked about what depression looks like, how it shows up, and some of the serious risks, but something people often wonder about is how to support someone who has depression. What if I say the wrong thing? What if I make it worse? What if I just don’t get it? If you are asking these questions, you are already on the right path – here are some additional ways to support someone who has depression.
Learn about depression.
It can be hard to support someone if you do not know anything about what they are going through. If the only concept of depression you have comes from Zoloft commercials from the early 2000’s, take some time to research and learn about what depression is like and how it impacts someone’s life. Use reliable sources, like the National Institute of Mental Health. Understand that not all depression looks the same, but that there are some key features of depression that your loved one will likely be experiencing.
It is so easy to hear someone’s suffering and want to commiserate or try to fix what is happening. While this comes from a good place, it can often leave people who have depression feeling unheard or invalidated. If you are having a conversation with someone about their depression, please let them do the talking. Hold space for their experience without adding your own and encourage them to share with you by genuinely wanting to understand them. Supporting someone means being safe for them, and listening is a great way to create a safe and understanding foundation.
Encourage their improvement.
If your loved one is considering finding a therapist or psychiatrist, encourage them to do so. You can provide resources like PsychologyToday.com for them to research providers in their area. You can recommend providers you have experience with or who have been recommended to you. If your loved one is already attending therapy or taking medication, encourage them to continue or to advocate with their providers when things are not working well. If your loved one is learning skills to help them cope with or manage their depression, encourage them to practice and give feedback when appropriate. You do not need to keep tabs on them or give them gold stars when they do something right but let them know that you are cheering for them and see the work they are doing.
There are useful and helpful interventions for depression, but recovery and improvement take time. Progress is also not likely to be linear and they will have some days that are better than others. Please remember that they are allowed to have their process and that they will get better in their own time.
Your loved one deserves to be supported and if you have the ability and capacity to be there for them, please extend that to them. Use these tips to support them and let your love for them show through. They are blessed to have you in their life and your efforts will be an important part of their process.