As a close friend or family member of someone struggling with chronic depression, it can be difficult and frustrating to navigate such a sensitive and worrisome situation.  You are likely to be concerned about their well-being, but unsure of how to help. While nothing can take the place of professional mental health treatment, there are ways you can best support your loved one experiencing depression.  

Listen and Believe

If someone you care about has indicated that they struggle with depression, or if you suspect that someone close to you might be dealing with undiagnosed depression, the best thing you can do for them is to genuinely listen.  This means giving them your undivided attention when they talk about their problems and letting them know that they are heard and understood. It is also very important not to downplay their symptoms by telling them they are fine, or that they need to brush it off and move on.  There is still a great deal of stigma surrounding depression and mental illness, and it is likely that your loved one is already uncomfortable opening up about their painful emotions and being vulnerable. People with depression need compassionate, nurturing shoulders to lean on, and also need to be validated in their experience by the people they love and respect.  Even if they appear to have an outwardly perfect life, it is not your place to tell someone with depression that they have no reason to feel the way they do. Depression is a mental illness and can happen to anyone, including people who seem to have it all.

Be Present

People with depression often have a hard time verbally relaying how they are feeling to others and may avoid social situations because they don’t have the energy for small talk and don’t want to bring everyone down.  If you care about someone with depression, try being physically present for them without pressuring them to socially engage. Lounge on the couch with them while they binge a television show, cook them a meal in their home, or simply offer to sit quietly with them for a while.  Depression makes it difficult to maintain relationships because struggling with negative thoughts and emotions isn’t particularly conducive to friendliness. Let your loved one know that you will be there for them whenever they need you, without any expectations. 

Check-In

Another critical aspect of supporting your loved one with depression is checking in on them often.  If you aren’t living with them, and you feel they may not have adequate support at home, it is especially important to check in on their wellbeing and let them know that you are thinking about them.  Depression can be incredibly isolating, and many people with poor mental health easily forget that they are loved and supported. A quick text or phone call to see how they are doing can go a long way.  Additionally, if you feel your loved one’s mental health may be declining, it may be time to ask if they are having thoughts of self-harm. If you ever suspect your friend or family member may be at immediate risk of suicide, contact emergency services by calling 911, and don’t leave your loved one unattended until they are in the care of medical providers.  

Take Care of Yourself

In order to be a pillar of support for your loved one with depression, it is important to remember to take care of yourself as well.  This means making sure that you are getting enough to eat, exercising, and practicing self-care by engaging in activities that help you relax and recharge.  If you are living with someone with chronic depression, you may want to think about seeking professional help to maintain your own mental wellness. Loving someone who is depressed can be emotionally draining and leave you feeling physically and mentally depleted.  It is important that you don’t allow your loved one’s mental health struggles to cause your own mental health to deteriorate.

Suggest Professional Treatment

The best choice your depressed loved one can make for themselves is to seek professional treatment for their mental illness.  You can’t force someone to accept help, but you can compassionately offer to find treatment options for them to explore. Try educating yourself about treatment in advance by speaking with a professional.  If your loved one is struggling with an addiction as well as depression, you may want to utilize the family resources provided at most addiction treatment centers. Most importantly, let your loved one know that they won’t be judged or ridiculed for seeking professional help and that you will continue to support them every step of the way.  

Many people struggling with chronic depression turn to drugs and alcohol to cope.  This behavior only exacerbates deteriorating mental health and may lead to addiction.  If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction and mental health issues, now is the time to seek help.  At Burning Tree Ranch, we specialize in long-term care that produces real results, especially for those who have experienced a relapse.  Here you will find a team of qualified and compassionate professionals, ready to help each client through a customized treatment program that addresses all aspects of addiction, including the identification of co-occurring disorders.  We know that the journey towards recovery doesn’t end with the conclusion of an inpatient program, which is why we provide extensive aftercare programs to best support our clients during their transition into lasting sobriety. We also know that addiction affects the whole family, and therefore loved ones are encouraged to participate in the recovery process and take advantage of all our support resources.  For more information, call us today at 972-962-7374.