Caring for someone with depression can be a complex challenge. When a loved one is clinically depressed, you want to be there, but you may not know what is helpful and what may be harmful. The most important part of caring for someone with depression is simply being there as someone for the depressed person to lean on and talk to. However, there are things that you can do as a friend or caregiver that can make a remarkable difference in a depressed person’s recovery.
- Know the signs and symptoms of depression: The first step in helping someone with depression is understanding the signs and symptoms of depression. This can help you recognize what is going on with the person, as well as what symptoms may arise as normal for someone with depression. A great way to do this is to read the articles about depression on this website, or to pick up a book about caring for someone with depression. With this knowledge you are not only more prepared, but you can help prepare the depressed person for what may occur. Your depressed friend or family member will also appreciate that you understand what they are going through.
- Realize that treatment is necessary and important: Similar to the previous tip, understanding that depression is a serious medical illness is important to helping a friend or family member with depression. Depression is not a personal flaw or weakness of character, but a medial disorder. Once you realize how important getting the right care is, you can encourage the person to get proper treatment, including both treatment with psychopharmacological medication as well as talk therapy with a psychologist or mental health counselor.
- Express your willingness to help: Being positive and understanding about depression helps a depressed person feel comfortable around you and trust you. Expressing your willingness to help that person by setting up appointments and even accompanying them to their appointments may help remove a lot of stress surrounding treatment.
- Focus on small goals and successes: Depending on how bad the depression is, there are a number of small goals that should always be valued when they occur. For example, if a depressed person is having difficulty getting out of bed, simply caring for their own personal needs such as arising to take a shower and get dressed can be a small success for the depressed person and should be met with excitement. Small goals and successes can also be making it to an appointment or taking their medications at the proper time each day. Being there to applaud the small successes can make a difference in the depressed person’s outlook and mood.
- Find local mental health care services: Sometimes it may fall on the depressed person to find their own mental health care services. This can feel like a big challenge for someone who can’t concentrate and doesn’t trust their own judgment. It may fall to you as the caregiver to find the best resources for that person, including a psychiatrist for medication management and a psychologist or mental health counselor for talk therapy. Going online is a great way to find resources and websites can be a great way to get to understand the doctor’s and therapists’ outlooks on depression so you can find a good fit for your friend.
- Stay in contact and pay attention: If you do not live with the depressed person it is important to stay in contact frequently and assess their thoughts and moods. This also shows that you care and that they have someone to rely upon when things get especially bad. Calling or visiting the person and asking them to accompany you on your daily activities can help motivate a depressed person to get out of the house and get some valuable social time that they would otherwise not get. You may need to work extra hard to get the depressed person to accompany you, as they may not wish to leave the house.
- Identify the warning signs of worsening depression and know what to do in a crisis situation: This website can also be an excellent resource for understanding what a course of depression may look like and what the signs of worsening depression are. It is very important for you to educate yourself about the warning signs of suicide and be ready to not only discuss these feelings with the depressed person, but also to call their mental health providers or 911 if they are thinking about harming themselves.
- Always be willing to listen: As discussed at the beginning of this article, simply being there for a depressed person to talk to and lean on can be one of the most powerful things you can do for a depressed person. Listening and paying attention to their concerns can make them feel less alone in their disease. Even having one person who is on their side can be the difference between life and death for someone who is depressed.