Watching someone you love; a partner, a friend, a family member struggle with their mental health is hard. In 2014 a study showed that one in six New Zealand adults had been diagnosed with a common mental disorder at some time in their lives. So, chances are, that either you or someone you know, has dealt with the effects of mental illness.
Giving support to a loved one with depression can be hard and stressful, and it can make you feel powerless. But the most important part of helping your partner or friend with depression is by offering support.
Everybody is different, and experiences vary but here are some simple yet effective ways to help support your loved one.
I cannot stress enough how important it is to let your loved one know that everything is okay between the two of you. With depression it’s easy to feel like a burden on the people you love and have thoughts about how everyone hates you or would be better off without you there. Letting your loved one know that you love them and that you’re not going to abandon them is important.
Take their problems seriously
Even if something seems like an unimportant problem to you, take your loved ones problems and feeling seriously. Having someone brush off your problems or say that they’re silly isn’t helpful.
Don’t say “cheer up”
Please for the love of all that is holy don’t tell someone with depression to “just cheer up”, or “be more positive”. These kind of statements aren’t helpful and can lead to frustration as it will leave the other person feeling like you don’t understand their feelings at all.
Lend an ear
Your loved one may feel more comfortable talking about their feelings with a psychologist or other professional, but let them know you’re there for a vent if they need. The gesture in itself can help the person to feel less isolated even if they don’t take you up on the offer. And if they do, listening to how they’re feeling can help to strengthen and improve your relationship and understand their perspective better.
Research and learn
If you don’t have any background knowledge of depression one of the best things you can do is learn. Gain some knowledge on how depression works. Websites like The Lowdown and Mental Health Foundation NZ are good places to start.
Don’t treat them differently
Remember that they are still the exact same person as they were before you knew they had depression. Try not to make them feel alienated or change the way you act around them.
Take care of your own mental health
Caring for someone who is depressed can take a toll on your own mental health. It’s important to take care of yourself too. Make sure you have someone to vent to and be aware of how the situation is affecting you. Find your own coping tools.
Overall, I’d say the most important part of supporting someone through depression is just being there. Depression leaves you feeling so horribly isolated. So knowing there’s someone on your side and willing to support you makes a huge difference. Just your physical presence is enough to bring some form of comfort.
Just by being there, offering support, and asking how you can help can make all the difference in the world.