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Five Ways to Help Someone with Depression


Understanding how depression affects people can help you better support loved ones who are struggling. Active depression is something people need help moving through because they generally lose their motivation and need help moving forward. Feelings of sadness, negative perspectives, exhaustion, and withdrawal from activities lead to a downward spiral. The more depressed they feel, the less they want to be around people, the less they want to do things they used to enjoy, the less they want to do anything, the more depressed they feel, which makes them even less likely to engage with life.

It is crucial to notice when depression is starting. People don’t always acknowledge that it could be happening which can lead to spiraling further down the depression hole. However, there are active steps that can be taken to help pull someone out of it before sliding down into a pit of despair. Below are five ways you can offer support as a friend or family member.

1. Encourage them to seek professional help.

People who suffer from chronic depression might not even realize that they don’t have to feel that way. Since depression makes people think things will never get better, they often don’t seek help. The best thing you can do for someone with depression is to patiently but firmly encourage them to seek professional help. There is a vast array of effective therapeutic approaches for the treatment of depression. Encourage people to try to find someone they feel a connection with so that they feel confident about their treatment plan.

There are also a number of good medication options, so encourage the person to seek out a consultation with their primary care provider or a psychiatrist. Their provider may also recommend light therapy, which can help “awaken” the brain if they suffer more often from depression during the shorter days of winter.

2. Help them get moving.

In addition to the health benefits, the most important thing in the treatment of depression is “behavioral activation,” which basically means to get moving—both literally (as in exercising or just getting out of the house) and metaphorically (as in moving toward something you value, like family, career, or spirituality). This can be challenging to do, as nothing feels very important when you are depressed.

We all understand what it’s like when you don’t feel like doing something, but with depression, you don’t feel like doing much of anything. However, you must decide to do it anyway knowing that you may not feel a major difference, or even any better at all, after doing it. Trust that even though it can take a while for the results to show up and your feelings to change, you will feel a difference and begin to see improvements.

3. Offer validation and encouragement.

As mentioned earlier, people with depression tend to think very negatively. It can be frustrating to figure out how to respond to these negative thoughts. One of the most important things to remember when it comes to someone who is depressed is to avoid the temptation to argue. If you try to tell them to cheer up, think positively, or see the bright side, their brains will likely only fire back with more negative thoughts. The best thing to do is acknowledge the thoughts and remain encouraging.

4. Nurture social support.

Numerous studies have shown that social support helps prevent and moderate the effects of depression. A big problem with depression is getting lost in negative thoughts in your own mind and being around other people helps to refocus the mind on more important things. This can help to remind the person that their depression is not their identity, and they are so much more.

The issue is that they won’t feel like being around other people, so do your best to gently encourage them to go out and do things with others. Keep in mind that the hardest part is getting moving, but they will often acknowledge later that they were glad they went. It is ideal to do things with close friends and family members. Even getting out and doing something as simple as going for a walk or going to the park with someone can be very helpful.

It’s helpful to listen to peoples’ struggles with depression, but don’t be afraid to talk about other subjects. One of the goals is to awaken other parts of the person’s brain so that their identity is not only that of a “depressed person.”

5. Take care of yourself.

Lastly, be sure to take care of yourself. People with depression can be very challenging to be around, even for the most loving and well-intentioned person. Since these disorders hijack people’s thinking patterns, their ongoing negativity and pessimism can be hard to deal with. Progress can also be very slow for someone with depression. Even with professional help, it may take weeks or months to show improvement, so great patience is required.

Make sure you remind yourself of the things you are grateful for in your own life, seek out your own support from family members and friends, engage in fulfilling hobbies, and make sure you get enough rest!

You can be one to help provide support, but clinical depression is a serious disorder that requires professional help. It can be very difficult to see someone you love to suffer, but if you don’t take care of yourself, you may begin to get overwhelmed yourself, which will not help anyone.

Depression is a battle that can most definitely be won. You are not alone, and there are so many incredible people wanting to help you. You need only to reach out and connect with the right people. If you don’t know where to start, begin by contacting your primary care provider to get the help you need, or schedule an appointment with a psychiatrist to begin your care with them. If you’ve already tried multiple treatment options that just don’t seem to work, consider being a part of one of our clinical trials to test new treatment options.