You might be surprised at how many adults struggle with depression in the US.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), depression is one of the most common mental health disorders in America, impacting over 17 million adults. NIMH also reports that over 7% of all U.S. adults experienced an episode of major depression in 2017. Worldwide, over 300 million adults and children live with the mental illness of depression.
If you know someone struggling with depression, you are certainly not alone. Many of us have loved ones that deal with depression. Warning signs of depression include:
- Deep sadness and negative emotion
- Highly pessimistic
- Moody or easily upset
- Feelings of worthlessness or emptiness
- Sudden disinterest in hobbies or people
- Feeling lethargic and exhausted
- Sleeplessness or sudden oversleeping
- Neglecting basic hygiene or feeling overwhelmed
- Struggle with focus or decision making
- Less talkative or lack of passion
- Self-harm, suicide attempt or mentions of suicidal thoughts
If you have a friend or loved one with depression, you may be experiencing secondary symptoms of depression. Depression really affects everyone around—not just the person who is struggling with their thoughts. There are three common feelings experienced by those in a relationship with a depressed person:
Powerlessness because depression is unpredictable and not something we can control or fix from the outside.
Anger (either displaced or buildup over time) from feeling hurt or attacked by the depression symptoms that seem so unfair and undeserved.
Stress from trying to successfully navigate a relationship with depression and mitigate the fallout.
You may feel as if it isn’t fair to have these feelings. You know your friend or loved one is doing their best, but you can’t help feel as if they just aren’t taking their wellbeing seriously enough. You find yourself caught in a seemingly impossible circumstance where you can’t make everyone happy. If you neglect your own health and wellbeing, these feelings are going to get much worse.
Your presence and stability will bring clear thinking that your friend or loved one needs to move forward with the treatment process. You are the one who can help them overcome negative thoughts and get back optimism, joy and energy. But, you will need to get some help in order to truly make a lasting impact on how they are viewing the world.
How to Help Someone with Depression
Depression might be something your loved one has dealt with for as long as you can remember, or it may be much more recent and signaled by sudden changes in behavior. Whether it’s your partner or family member, the impact is much more personal if you have a close relationship with a loved one battling depression. These tips for helping someone with depression are meant for the more intimate relationships—the relationships that you have more sway over and are more affected by.
1. Don’t Try to Fix Them
Fixing them is a benefit for you, so you may feel a strong desire to try. You want to fix the person so you don’t have to feel stressed with what their depression brings into your life.
The problem is, you can’t truly fix them, so you really just end up tiptoeing around their issues and enabling the depressive episode. My dad struggled with depression and we would try to avoid setting him off, being extremely careful what was said in any setting and how we said it.
But, it is not your job to fix another person! In fact, it can’t be done. Instead, you will experience a transfer of energy if you try. If you try to take on the healing, you will become the lead in the healing process and the loved one with depression won’t be accountable to work through it. Give a referral to a mental health professional and avoid taking ownership or carrying that burden yourself.
2. Listen with Empathy
Invite your loved ones to share with you and listen to them! This doesn’t mean you will agree with everything they say. In fact, ask questions and push back a little bit. Sometimes, in answering other people’s questions, we learn a lot about ourselves and the flaws in our thinking. But, don’t assume you know what they mean—ask them to clarify and spell things out.
If it isn’t a huge drain on you, listen to their struggles and be the caring shoulder they can cry on. To the person struggling, depression feels like lies are truth: You aren’t good enough! No one loves you! You are such a burden to everyone else! Part of their healing process is to see these lies for what they are. You will be instrumental when you are a listening ear and not trying to give advice or fix them.
You don’t want to listen to repetitive rants. But, when someone is in a mindful state, you can play an important role by just letting them express their situation and reiterate what they are telling you. You can validate their feelings so they feel heard without feeling like their situation is how it should be: That sounds really hard. I’m sorry you are feeling this way.
If you do see a risk of suicide, it is important you call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The helpline number is 1-800-273-8255 and can help your loved one get professional help.
3. Support Their Healing Path
Part of listening with empathy should include questions that work towards a solution: What will help you work towards healing? Do you think you should talk to a professional? I hear you say you know these feelings aren’t true, what are you doing now to change how you feel? Keep offering that listening ear with gentle guidance in the form of questions towards them seeking out help.
And, pray. Ask God for them to feel so tired of their struggle that they get help and seek out mental health services. Ask that they finally come to that place where they realize they cannot do it all by themselves. To work through depression, they are going to have to trust God and look into therapy options.
Depression is a mental imbalance and makes it hard to think correctly (in line with reality). Learning how to change your thinking is often going to take the support of a psychiatry professional or therapist with specific depression treatment. Always push that path back to their court: How can I support you in healing your depression? What are your treatment options?
4. Stop Enabling
You can’t take charge of their treatment process (remember my first tip?). Let them know you fully support their healing process. You are not afraid to be there as they struggle, but you won’t watch them refuse to get help.
Don’t remind them not to eat sugar, take medication or get to their appointments. This doesn’t mean you can never say anything, but there is a big danger that you will start to take on their responsibility. If you ask, “Are you supposed to be doing that?” or “Aren’t you supposed to meet your health care provider?” then you start to be the one catching the slip-ups instead of them. They have to learn how to walk in this journey. If you keep trying to do it for them, they will never learn.
If you’ve had children (or been around children), then you know the value of letting them do the things they are ready for but NOT skilled at doing. It is SO HARD to sit there and watch your baby struggle to crawl three feet to get a toy. But if you simply grab the toy for them, you are actually weakening them and taking away their chance to work through that challenge! If you do all the walking and talking for your child, their progress is stunted and they will be much slower to do it themselves. This holds true as they get older and learn how to feed or dress themselves—it’s always a huge mess and takes forever.
You know you could make this process faster with fewer bumps, but that isn’t the point. They need to do this for themselves because this part of working through the depression is really a big part of learning how to handle it.
5. Set Boundaries
When your loved one isn’t taking their healing seriously, you have to be able to step back. Set up boundaries so you don’t get sucked in. You might say things like: You’re not motivated to get well. I care about you, but this is a pattern. I can’t be part of this pattern, but I’m here to help you if you want to change and seek out real help.
This is such a hard line to walk. You have to protect your own energy and avoid trying to fix things for them. That means you need to set up boundaries if they refuse to change and pursue healing on their own.
6. Join the Carol Tuttle Healing Center
Whether you want to gift the experience to your loved one or take classes to clear your own mind, I think my Healing Center is a huge help in these cases. Join me as I walk through some of the barriers that are holding you back from healing. You can learn how to open the energy that may help them create movement (you CAN NOT heal them).
I help heal the various levels that create depression. I help those with depression heal emotionally and at a subconscious level to heal the mind. Find out more about my Healing Center here.
7. Believe in Them
When you see positive changes, acknowledge them. Notice the healthy steps they are taking and give positive feedback. You can thank them for taking steps in the right direction.
It’s crucial you acknowledge their work, just like you acknowledged their struggles. This will help them feel the benefits of taking the right steps. It will show them you truly care about their healing and not just making your life easier by avoiding the stress or mess.
8. Don’t Take on Their Energy
This is easier said than done, but it’s one of the reasons you need to set boundaries and join my Healing Center. It is so easy to take on the energy of those around you. If they aren’t willing to get help, you can start to spiral in a negative direction.
I have an I am Joyful oil that can help you stay in your own energy. You don’t want to be depressed along with them. If you start to enable and take on the burden of their depression, you will start to feel depressed yourself. So, have your own set of mantras to keep you in a healthy state. Take time for yourself and use I am Joyful to bring your mental state back to the right place. Sometimes, we have to physically step away to reset our perspective and rejuvenate our energy.
Successfully Supporting Someone with Depression
Depression is a medical condition and mood disorder—not a personal weakness. It gets better with the right treatment. The goal for most cases should be to get them into a solid therapy course that will. Stay in touch and keep checking in if you can do so without enabling them or taking on their energy. Depression often makes us feel alone.
I know firsthand how hard it is to journey next to someone with serious depression. You might be feeling angry, stressed or powerless about this situation, so make sure you place focus on your own wellbeing too. Take time to sit and meditate, looking at your own feelings and analyzing the situation. Join support groups and mindfully practice self-care. You want to be a rock and support, but it’s easy to get sucked in.
If you want help with this self-wellness check, please reach out. My Healing Center offers a place of renewal and empowering mindfulness.