A major depressive disorder is a prevalent mental health condition. According to Statistics Canada, about 5% of the Canadian population suffers from it. And for each of these patients, there are family members and friends who endure the pain of watching their loved ones going through this ordeal, often feeling helpless.

Helping your loved one deal with this can be challenging. Despite witnessing the effect of the illness, it isn’t easy to understand what the person may be actually feeling. This may leave you clueless about how to act or what to say.

We understand that this can be difficult, and thus detailing a few tips that will help you get started and support someone with major depression.

Coping with Diagnosis

It is difficult to predict how someone might react when they are diagnosed with depression. They may have the feelings of “Why me” or “It is not possible”. 

Try and be patient around them and make them understand that this can happen to anyone and it’s not their fault. It is a common condition and can be managed easily.

Also, help them realize that they are not alone in their journey and that you will always be beside them.

Supporting Through Treatment

Depression, most of the time, does not get better without treatment. Instead, it gets worse if left unattended. Experts believe that both antidepressants and cognitive therapy are effective in managing the major depressive disorder.

It may be challenging to encourage your loved ones to take treatment if they are not ready to acknowledge their problem.

So, it is best to make them understand what you notice and why you are concerned. Research and suggest a practitioner, to begin with. 

You can offer to accompany them during their treatment and to all their appointments.

Attention to Medication Use and Continuation 

Most people with major depressive disorder take medicines. You can help them by understanding how the medication works, the side effects and symptoms that indicate the current treatment is not working. It is also a good idea to know about withdrawal symptoms. This way, you will get to know if they are missing their doses.

If they find following the medicine schedule overwhelming, you can help them here. You can get their prescriptions filled, organize their pills, and make sure they take them.

They may also need assurance that they are not crazy for needing those medicines.

Besides, sticking to the medication routine can be frustrating as it may take a few weeks for them to show the result. Antidepressants may have to be changed if the current ones are not working the way they should.

Encourage them during this process and try and make them understand how the medicine will help them.

Depression may make your loved ones feel like staying indoors, and they may feel like canceling their appointment. Help them to stick to their schedule. You can use strategies like, “You found the last session productive,” and you will end up feeling a lot better if you go for the appointment.

Try and be patient and not force them. Instead, use words that motivate them for consultation and medication.

If they feel medicines are causing side-effects and stop suddenly, make them understand the consequences and why it is a good idea to consult the physician first.

Looking Out for Symptoms/Side Effects 

If your loved one has the mentioned symptoms, there is a high chance of them being depressed:

  • Appear too pessimistic than usual
  • Seen tearful or sad
  • Seems less interested in things they used to love before
  • Do not feel like meeting or talking
  • Gets irritable or upset easily
  • Constantly talks about being empty, feeling guilty, or worthless
  • Have less interest in their appearance than usual
  • Neglects brushing teeth or showering
  • Seem listless or have less energy
  • Have sleep problems
  • Seem forgetful
  • Care less about their usual activities
  • Talk about death or suicide
  • Eat less or more than usual

Some symptoms that may indicate that your loved one is thinking about suicide and you need to intervene are:

  • Talking about dying or death
  • Frequent personality changes or mood swings
  • Increased substance abuse
  • Buying a weapon
  • Giving away treasured possessions or getting rid of their belongings
  • Dangerous or risky behavior
  • Feel trapped and want a way out
  • Saying goodbye with intense emotions than usual
  • Avoiding people and prefer to stay alone

If you feel that your friend is trying to commit suicide, urge them to call their therapist, or you reach for them.

Emotional Support and Care

Emotional support and care is the only thing you can do for them. But while doing so, don’t cross boundaries and do not burn out in the process. Here are some tips that can help you get started:

Hear Them Out

Listen to what they want to share. Let them know that you are all ears, and they can pour their feelings without hesitation. 

If they do not share, you can start the conversation by asking specific questions. It is also best to understand that your friend might want to vent out but does not need any advice. 

So, just listen to what they want to talk about. Ask questions to understand how they are feeling instead of assuming them. Show empathy and validate their feelings. You can use words like, “I can understand how you might be feeling.”

While asking questions, always keep them open-ended. 

Offer Hope

Everyone has different interests. Offer hope to loved ones in the form they are able to accept. It can be god, children, pets, or anything in their life that keeps them going.

Try and understand what matters to them and keep on reminding them of it when they are feeling low.

Love Them Unconditionally

It may be possible that your loved one is going through a deep sense of guilt. They may feel that they are a burden for those around them. They may even tell you that their loved ones would be better off with them.

Showering them with unconditional love regularly is the best way to help them combat these feelings. Even if you get frustrated or angry, it is better to convey that these feelings are for the illness and not them.

It is also essential that you also ask for help when you are taking care of someone with depression. This will strengthen your ability to help your loved one and set an example of self-care.

Take Care of Yourself

As mentioned above, it is best if you take support. You cannot help others if you are depleted or feeling overwhelmed. 

Take periodical breaks from the situation and recharge yourself. This is important as it is seen that people who stay together are at risk of becoming depressed. 

Also, remember that depression can be taxing for one who suffers and those who surround them. So, acknowledge your feelings as, at times, they are the best indicators of how you can navigate through challenging situations.

Things to Avoid

The most important thing to do is not to take things personally. Depression alters an individual’s social skills and they might not like being around others. They can become shy, angry, withdrawn, and sullen.

It may be hard to be on the receiving end when the depressed person out lashes anger frequently. But always remember not to take it personally. 

Besides, when a loved one pulls away from you, it may be hard not to take it personally, especially if you are involved in a romantic relationship. This could be worse when your partner doesn’t feel like having sex. You may think that they don’t love you. At such times, try and understand that loss of sex drive is a typical symptom of depression. Sexual problems can also be side-effects of the medicines used to manage depression.

Another important aspect to understand is to avoid blame and judgment. If your loved one is not able to do activities and household chores, you may feel that they are lazy. But try and understand that they are ill and not lazy. Even small or day-to-day activities may be daunting for someone with depression.

Final Thoughts

Dealing with a major depressive disorder can be challenging. However, helping your loved one suffering from it can even be more challenging. Being patient, showing empathy,  and helping them in their journey without affecting yourself is the best you can do.

Try the mentioned tips to take care of your loved ones.

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