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Advice on Supporting Family Members with Depression

Is someone you love living with depression?

If so, it can be hard to know how to support them. Should you hold space and listen or offer suggestions? Should you tell them that you’re feeling concerned, or instead try to cheer them up?

If these questions sound familiar, hang in there! It’s common for family members and loved ones to feel helpless in the face of the effects of depression – but you aren’t alone.

In this article, we’ll offer some expert advice on caring for your loved one and yourself. Keep reading for all the information!

Get Educated

Did you know that Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. for people between 15 and 44? Yet, it’s a disease that most of us know surprisingly little about.

If someone you love has been diagnosed with depression, learning about their disorder can help you better understand how to help. These resources are a good starting point:

  • National Alliance on Mental Illness Family Support Group: A peer-led support resource for family members and loved ones of anyone suffering from mental illness
  • Families for Depression Awareness: Education, training, and support to bring families together and help them heal while coping with mood disorders

Learning more about your friend or family member’s depression does not make you an expert. Try to choose listening over lecturing. Remember to check in and find out how that person feels so you can properly support them.

In the future, you might also consider joint counseling sessions or other learning opportunities that you can engage in together. 

Listen and Ask Questions

The most powerful thing you can do to help someone who is depressed is to listen. People feel heard and understood when you listen. Take a few minutes to put down whatever you’re doing, suspend your judgments and suggestions, make good eye contact, and listen. It might help you in understanding depression.

You might be surprised by what you learn!

But, helping your loved one might not be so simple. If the conversation isn’t shedding much light on how they’re doing, any signs and symptoms aren’t being expressed, or they’re struggling to open up, try asking a few questions. Here are some examples to get you started:

  • When did you first start to feel depressed?
  • Can you think of something specific that might have triggered it?
  • Are you experiencing a lot of stress?
  • Are there triggers or situations that make you feel worse?
  • Are there moments when you feel better or cheered up?
  • Do you ever have suicidal thoughts?
  • Do you ever think about self-harm or suicide?

Remember, talk to the person, but it’s also important to be gentle while discussing these deeply personal and emotional situations. The last thing you want is for someone you care about to feel judged or interrogated.

Search for Solutions Together

One of the biggest parts of supporting family members with depression is problem-solving as a team. After all, you know them far better than any doctor, therapist, or mental health professional ever will.

Start by identifying some potential sources of stress in their life. Chronic feelings of anxiety can cause a decline in physical and mental health. They can also interrupt healthy coping strategies, making the person vulnerable to mood swings.

While the changes shouldn’t be dramatic, making some small tweaks to your loved one’s daily life could help take the edge off. Try subtle additions like a few calming breathing techniques or a meditation app for their phone at first.

It would help if you also encouraged them to get the help that they need. This could come in various forms, including support groups, therapy or counseling, and even FDA-approved & FDA-cleared medical techniques to treat depression

Remember, it’s ultimately their decision. Don’t be mean or bossy – you’ll just run the risk of pushing that person away. And, they’ll likely find comfort in knowing that you’re around to support them, no matter what they choose. 

The Power of Positivity

Sometimes, the best thing you can do to help a person living with depression is to let a little sunshine in. Laughter is healing and helpful to someone who spends most of their time feeling down or exhausted, and even if just for a moment, it can help replace feelings of sadness, anxiety, and panic.

It may also be helpful to reframe the conversation and look toward the future. No matter how hard today is, it won’t always feel this way. Things will eventually get better.

If your loved one has already tried medication and didn’t get the results they were hoping for, they might also want to hear positive affirmation that their condition could eventually improve. Today, more options exist than ever before for treating depression – and plenty of them aren’t pills.

With you standing by as their support, now could be the right time to try something different, like TMS therapy. This innovative technique may heal specific areas of the brain that are impaired by cellular dysfunction. The result is a significant improvement in mood, function, energy, focus, and overall well-being.

Coping With Depression

Now that you know a bit more about how to help your family and friends cope with their depression, you’re ready to engage them in a more meaningful way. 

Hold onto this article as a guide that you can refer back to if the going gets tough. Remember, it’s normal to feel frustrated or exhausted sometimes, so don’t be too hard on yourself.  

If your friend or family member is ready to take the next step in treating their symptoms, we’re here to help. We offer free consultations at our San Diego clinic, which you can schedule today.