Need assistance helping someone with depression? It can be tricky and difficult to know how to assist someone when they are in a depressive episode.
I have personally uttered the ignorant words “just stop being sad” to individuals I have come across with depression, including family members.
It is disappointing yet enlightening because it gives me personal experience to be able to inform others of why NOT to tell someone “just stop being sad” and how to help someone with depression.
“Don’t you think they have tried that?”. I have come across many clients (both in case work and therapy) whom claim their goal is to “stop being sad”. They want to feel better, think more positively and solve the problem that triggers depression.
Most of them have “tried everything to get better” but cannot manage to get out of bed or be productive due to depression making them a prisoner in their own home. They want to “be happier” but are unsure of how to go about finding happiness.
Depression episodes effect almost 7% of the population with less than that actually seeking treatment. Through medication, therapy, education and other supports those diagnosed with depression symptoms can get better or symptoms subside all together.
There are many reasons some individuals experience depression: from trauma to death of a loved one,their health, drugs or genetics.
I say all of that to say, that when you witness someone going through an episode, it is not appropriate to belittle or ignore their symptoms. It is not fair to tell them to just feel better, stop being sad or just get up as though they have not tried all day to do so.
You may notice your friend:
- Losing interest in activities they once did
- Having Insomnia/ Hypersomnia
- Has a improper diet
- Lack of self-care (hygiene, cleanliness of home etc)
- No energy or lack of concentration
- Guilty thoughts
- Suicidal thoughts
*this is not a comprehensive list
There are few things you can do to help your loved one that I have listed for you below.
Tip 1 Helping Someone With Depression: Research it
Understand that they would “feel better” if they could. Researching the illness will help you understand that this is not a weakness and it can be treated.
Blogs like mine and many other seek to reduce stigma and educate individuals so that they know how to cope with their illness.
Realize that you are not a professional and that is okay!
You will be limited in the amount of information you have but the most important thing you need to remember is to refer them to a professional who can help.
Tip 2 Helping Someone With Depression: Be there
Be willing to openly communicate with them about what is happening and that you have noticed a change in behavior.
Be prepared to listen! Use these tips to help individuals cope with their depression and know activities you all can do together to improve their mood.
Do not give “pad answers” (as a co-worker calls them) because they can be demeaning to their current state.
Instead, if you can, offer solutions that the person can apply to what they perceive the problem is.
Tip 3 Helping Someone With Depression: Know your limitations!
Reach out to mental health professionals, other family members or whomever understands more than you do what this person is experiencing.
It can be extremely difficult to be there for someone with severe depression as it can create stress and anxiety within the friend/family member.
It is also okay to seek help for yourself.
If you are a caretaker, spouse, child or the like of someone with depression join support groups or seek counseling for yourself.
Organizations like NAMI, Mental Health America and your local mental health community center should have groups for individuals with mental illness and their family members.
What are somethings you have noticed helped someone else during their crisis?
Check out this video of Sabrina Benaim on “Explaining My Depression to My Mother”