How to Help a Loved One With Depression

The Nystrom & Associates provider consulted for this article is Madi Mixdorf, LGSW, DBT and Outpatient Therapist  Do you know someone who suffers from depression?   Depression is a serious mental health condition that affects millions of people. Madi Mixdorf, Outpatient Therapist at Nystrom & Associates, outlines the statistics of depression in the United States.  
According to the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI), an estimated 16 million American adults—almost 7% of the population—had at least one major depressive episode in the past year. Women are 70% more likely than men to experience depression, and young adults aged 18–25 are 60% more likely to have depression. 
It can be challenging to see someone you love experiencing a tough time. You might feel helpless or not know what to do.   While many of us might know someone with depression, it’s key to understand how you can help them cope.  

1. Learn About Depression 

The first step is to learn about the signs and symptoms of depression. Depression affects everyone differently, so it’s important to educate yourself. Learn more about the signs and symptoms on our depression specialty page.  Pay attention to the language they use and any potential warning signs of suicidal thoughts.    Related: Postpartum Depression: Signs & Symptoms 

2. Check-in With Them 

Secondly, start a conversation. Ask how they’re doing and let them know you’re there for them. This includes validating their feelings. Some examples of this include saying things like: 
  • “You mentioned you were feeling down last time we were together. Do you want to talk about anything?” 
  • “You seem down today. What’s on your mind?” 
  • “It seems like you’re having a tough time lately. Is there something you’d like to talk about?”  
  • “That sounds hard, I’m sorry you are going through this.”  
  • “I’m always here for you.”  
Overall, keep communication open. By offering your support and empathy, you are showing them that they aren’t a burden.   Related: Being Lonely and Being Alone: What’s the Difference? 

3. Encourage Them to Seek Professional Help  

You might feel inclined to offer advice, but the best way to help someone with depression is to actively listen and encourage them to get professional help. A mental health professional will be able to develop a treatment plan that can include a combination of medication and therapy.  If your loved one is in danger of suicide, you can take them to a nearby hospital, emergency room, or mental health facility.  Related: How Therapy Helps With Depression 

4. Take Care of Yourself  

Taking care of yourself when someone else is struggling might seem selfish – but you need to look out for your own needs, too. Helping someone all the time can increase stress and make you less helpful to your loved one. Make sure you take time to: 
  • Practice self-care: Tend to your own needs so you can recharge.  
  • Set boundaries: This includes setting limits around your time and energy. For example, this could include saying something like, “I’m available to talk this morning, but I have a meeting at noon to get to.” 
Related: 8 Mindfulness Practices to Reduce Stress 

If You’re Struggling 

If you are having suicidal thoughts or thinking of harming yourself, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.   Mixdorf has some tips for those who need daily doses to combat depression. Sometimes, small things can create a big difference.  
This past year left many of us feeling alone and hopeless, but it doesn't have to stay that way. Here are some tips to combat depression:  
  • Get together with friends, family and/or loved ones 
  • Spend some time outside 
  • Take care of yourself physically  
  • Do one activity a day that you enjoy - even if it's only for 10 minutes

A Word From Nystrom & Associates 

Depression has an aura of hopelessness, but even the most severe depression is treatable. Nystrom & Associates specializes in depression treatment. Call 1-844-NYSTROM or request an appointment online.  

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