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Experts tell us that one out of every five Americans will experience depression at some point in life. While women seem to be more susceptible than men, it is an illness which affects all people of all ages. We are all vulnerable. In fact, depression may be more common now than ever before. For this reason, it is likely that, at some point, someone near and dear to you may suffer with depression. Here are some ways to offer meaningful support to the person living with depression.

To begin with, realize that this is an illness, but not one that people are ready to seek help in treating. Apart from the stigma which remains attached to depression, the person affected usually feels bad about themselves, is unmotivated and feels like their situation is hopeless. Do not be surprised if the person doesn’t respond welcomingly to your offers of support at the outset.

Depression can arrive suddenly following a significant life event such as a birth or a death, but it may also appear slowly and without apparent cause. Depression is usually recognized as the person becomes emotionally unavailable. They no longer take an interest in things that once brought great enjoyment. The person may become mentally foggy, have trouble sleeping and appear generally uninterested even toward a physical relationship with the marriage partner.

Be aware that it does not help to tell the person that they have no good reason to be depressed. Depression is not a choice. While certain actions may alleviate symptoms, it is unlikely that chiding will help the person to get over it. Instead, speak to them with understanding and take their part. Strategize with them ways that you can help them get up in the morning or what you can do to help resolve other troubling issues. Vocalize unity. If the affected person is a marriage partner, remind them that the two of you are a matched set…you are in this together.

The person with depression feels very low self-esteem. Remind them about their positive qualities. Don’t be false, but do be generous with your praises and assurances of steadfast affection. Tell them how they have positively impacted others and express gratitude for the unique person they are.

Persons struggling with depression can easily fall into a dark hole of self-pity. Telling them so probably won’t turn the boat around. Instead, tell them that you can see how hard they are struggling and verbalize your willingness to be a helper and a support. You don’t have to understand or endorse all of their feelings in order to acknowledge them and express sympathy with them.

Giving care and support to the person living with depression can be a tough row to hoe. For a while they may come across as thankless or may even react unkindly. Decide to persevere. The other person should not be allowed to consume your every waking thought and energy, but with consistent affirmation and practical help you can give the meaningful support that the loved one desperately needs.

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