Are you Supporting Depression?
With a rise in the number of people being diagnosed with anxiety and depression, you will almost certainly know someone who has, has had or will have the condition. In practical terms this means that we may have a friend or a family member that we have to support who suffers from depression or anxiety. Of course, depression and anxiety are serious conditions that need proper treatment, but there are things that you can do to help them to a sense of recovery.
Perhaps the simplest and most straightforward thing that you can do is to be there with the person. If you can just listen without judgement, without bullying them into a different opinion, I think you will be surprised at the power of just listening to someone. Statements like "pull yourself together" or "snap out of it" are not helpful; and, as the person cannot ‘snap out’ of depression, this suggests to the sufferer that they are even more worthless for not snapping out of it. Of course, it is hard to just listen (perhaps even harder if the person is weeping) - but by doing so you are offering a space that lets them express their feelings.
Sometimes a depressed person will express thoughts that might make you worry about self-harm or suicide; for example “it would be better for everyone if I wasn’t here”. With many people each year attempting suicide, an expression of suicide should always be taken seriously. Be prepared to talk about the difficult feelings; talking about it does not make the person more suicidal. You can talk about getting help, perhaps from their GP; you can offer to listen to their concerns, but don’t dismiss them as silly or inconsequential. Finally, if someone expresses a definite plan you should get them help urgently; again take it seriously and not as a cry for help.
Of course not everyone with depression will contemplate suicide and in addition to listening to the person there are a number of other good practices to follow; avoid offering advice or making comparisons, as doing so can make the depressed person feel more inadequate and judged and can push them further away. Learning about depression and its mechanisms will help you cope. There are several good books on the subject both to buy and increasingly in your local library. It all makes a difference in supporting your loved one through their recovery.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly - don’t forget to look after yourself. It can be hard work supporting someone with an illness and you need to take time to make sure that you have the physical and emotional strength to do it. Try to find the time each day or week to do something for yourself; something that recharges your batteries. It might be a walk in the park; it might be completing a Sudoku puzzle - the point is, it is something for you.
There are of course many resources on the internet and access available through both national and local support groups, so make contact and get support; you are not alone in wanting to support your loved one.
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