Depression is a chronic medical condition, affecting millions of people around the world. It is not limited by gender, age, race or geographical location because it can afflict anyone at any time. The fact is that like depression, there are several other chronic medical conditions like hypertension or diabetes, which are less inscrutable even by those not affected by them. But depression can prove difficult or impossible to understand, by those who have never been afflicted by it.
People living with depression are involved in a continuous battle with their feelings and emotions, and the worst thing friends or family members can do for these people is complicating their battles. It is important to understand that depression is more than a brief period of sadness, despair or disappointment. It is a long-term constellation of symptoms and signs, which diminishes a person’s quality of life.
For example, family and friends of depressed people may be unable to comprehend why their loved one suddenly lost interest in things they used to enjoy, seem withdrawn and introverted, sleep more or less than they used to, lost or gained more appetite/weight, express guilt for what they shouldn’t be or exhibit diminished concentration and energy than their pre-morbid states.
The reality of the situation is that, if you have never been depressed, you may never be able to completely understand what these lovely people are going through on a daily basis. No one wants to make others miserable, just because they are unable to deal with their own miseries. But depressed persons, can’t seem to help themselves. And as friends and family, we can do our bit in helping our loved ones go through the duration of those symptoms easily. In the following section, I show you what the community of support can do, to help these brave people.
How to Support People Living with Depression
- Do not pity them. People living with depression, do not seek your pity. When you display feelings of sorrow or sympathy towards them, you may make their symptoms a whole lot worse. Instead, it is better to let them understand that you know exactly what they are passing through in a non-pitiful way, and that you will always be there to help them through their journeys.
- Be patient with them. People living with depression may become incredibly slow at performing tasks or their daily duties. This is because, they are often unmotivated, and so may not be driven to accomplish given assignments. Therefore, a firm understanding of this should guide you into being more patient with them, while applying gentle nudging prompts to get them back on course, when necessary.
- Do not judge them. You do not need to judge people battling depression if you have never walked in their shoes. It may seem ridiculous how someone is always gloomy and dispirited, even in situations that may call for celebrations or happiness. It is not their fault. They are dealing with something they have absolutely no control over. The best you and I can do for them is to assist them in going through those difficult times of their lives, rather than judge them.
- Do not criticize them. The last thing people living with depression need is to be criticized, berated, condemned or attacked for doing things in a certain way. Instead, show them your support by acknowledging their efforts in getting things done, and provide them with the assurance that you would always be there for them even in their battles.
- Do not Pressure them. Depression is a long-term ailment, and chances are that your loved one may or may not have commenced treatment. The truth is that people respond to treatments and medications, at different paces. But it would be absolutely unhelpful for the person experiencing depression to be pressurized to get better after a certain period of treatment. Therefore, avoid statements like, “it’s about time”, “you are not the only one in this house”, “you better get better on time or else”, etc.
- Validate their emotions and show them that you understand their plight. One major resource that helps in recovery, is family, peer group or community support. And that starts with people acknowledging to the depressed, that they understand what they are going through, and that they are willing to support them for the long haul. Apart from the fact that this communication strategy is very inspirational, it also gives them a sense of belonging. A deep-seated understanding that other people care about their welfare, their successes or failures goes a long way in preventing self-inflicted trauma or injuries, or even suicidal ideations or actions. Because, sometimes what drives people living with depression to consider the easy way out by ending their own lives, is the thought that no one understands what they are going through, or even cares about them. But once family members and friends can step in to fill that void, the road to recovery becomes easier.
- As much as possible, connect people living with depression to treatment and support groups. There is no shame living with depression or any mental health condition for that matter. Depression is just like any other chronic medical ailment, including diabetes or hypertension, which are well recognized. Therefore, quit the stigma, and try to give these incredibly brave people the support they need. There are counseling centers and support groups around us, and also, they would benefit from their primary care physicians, including specialized medical care. Whatever approach you take, it is important to help them realize that you are interested in their success, and in their fight to overcome the depressive symptoms.
- Acknowledge your own emotions, and seek help if necessary. Living with and trying to support someone with depression, may be very demanding, and tasking at the same time. Sometimes, we may get overwhelmed, angered, frustrated and even impatient. While these feelings are completely normal and totally understandable, you do not want them to rub off on the person you are trying to help. Find someone you trust to let out your emotions to (of course not to the depressed person), because releasing that pressure from off your chest may prove very helpful. Plus, “a problem shared, they say is a problem half solved.” If possible, seek help and counseling resources for family members helping someone with depression. Because, if you are not in the best shape, you may not be able to help or assist someone else.
In wrapping this up, living with depression is a tough emotional spiral ball. You never know what you may get with each new day. And for someone who has never experienced depressive symptoms, it may be incomprehensible to fathom what people living with depression go through. Regardless, it is worthwhile to understand that providing these brave people with the support they need, is a key step towards recovery, and living more fulfilling lives!
To your continued success. Cheers!!!