Medically reviewed by Susan Vachon, PA-C on January 10, 2022
If your loved one is depressed, you might not know what to do. Depression is a tricky illness to deal with as an outsider. There’s no way for you to know how that person feels or what they’re experiencing.
Luckily, that doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do. There are plenty of ways you can support a depressed loved one in their fight. Use this guide to help you know how to help someone with depression.
Learn to Recognize the Signs of Depression
First and foremost, you’ll want to learn more about the signs and symptoms of depression. After all, you won’t be able to help if you don’t even realize they’re depressed.
Most people with depression feel sad, empty, and hopeless. Anxiety and stress may take over their lives. They may no longer take pleasure in the things they used to love. Sleeping too much or not being able to sleep is also common.
So what will this look like in their daily lives? They may not have the energy to do the dishes or laundry. In some cases, they may pull away from social interactions, becoming uncharacteristically introverted. You may even see them laying in bed all day or talking about suicidal thoughts.
It’s important to keep in mind that feeling depressed is not the same as having a bad day. If a loved one is having a bad day, a good hug and a nice meal might help them feel better. With depression, it will likely take more than that to get them feeling normal again. In fact, these symptoms must last for a period of at least two weeks to qualify as clinical depression.
Help Out With Daily Tasks
As you can imagine, someone experiencing the above symptoms might have trouble living their daily lives. If they’re too tired and sad to get out of bed, they certainly won’t be able to cook themselves dinner or clean up the house. And unfortunately, the inability to complete these tasks can cause them to feel even more stressed and useless.
That’s where you come in. You can do your best to help your loved one out by assisting them with chores. If the dishes are piling up, clean them. If your loved one has no more clean underwear, do a load of laundry.
These aren’t major life-changing things, and they won’t cure your loved one’s depression. However, these small acts of kindness can help them feel loved, which is very important if their self-worth is low. And, living in a clean and tidy environment may help your loved one feel a little better.
Help Them Find Treatment
In some cases, your loved one might be resistant to treatment. They might think they’re fine and can handle everything on their own, or they may be too ashamed by the social stigma placed on depression. You don’t want to force them into treatment, but you should try your best to make them see how it could help them. Remind them of the benefits, and help them with researching doctors or facilities.
If your loved one is comfortable with accessing resources online, it’s easy to use Nurx to connect with a mental health provider. Your loved ones will be paired with a provider in their state to review their needs and get help right away.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) treatment locator is another good resource. It lets you search for mental health professionals in your area. You can sort professionals based on their specialty, making it easy to find a therapist that meets their needs.
If your loved one is ready for treatment but just has no motivation to schedule anything, take care of that for them. Drive them to their appointment if necessary, and be there for them afterward, as sometimes, therapy can bring up troublesome feelings.
Be Ready to Listen
Chances are, your loved one will need tons of emotional support along the way. They may need someone to listen to them express themselves. Often, their patterns of thought may not be entirely accurate, or you may think they are being dramatic.
However, try not to be judgmental. Rather, just listen and be a shoulder they can cry on. Even if you don’t know what to say, it helps to have someone there so they don’t feel so alone. You may even plan small outings or activities together. That way, your loved one can get out of their headspace for a while so they don’t keep dwelling on their bad thoughts.
On the flip side, it may be normal for your loved one to push you away. Their depression may make them want to self-isolate. You can’t force them to open up, so just be there whenever they’re ready to talk.
If this happens, make sure they don’t feel abandoned. Provide a number where they can reach you at any time. You should also give them the numbers for the SAMHSA National Helpline and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which are 1-800-662-4357 and 1-800-273-8255, respectively.
Assist Them With Living a Healthier Lifestyle
Try to help your loved one be active at least three times a week. This is obviously tough when they have low energy levels, so start with something simple, like a walk around the block. Once they build up to it, see if they’ll join you at the gym or a fitness class.
Getting a loved one to eat healthier may be slightly easier if you do the meal prep and cooking for them. The best diets for depression are often Mediterranean-based. This means you should try to feed your loved one plenty of fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins, and fish. Stay away from processed foods, carbs, and sugars.
Fight Back Against Depression Together
Your loved one might not realize all that you’re doing for them right away. In fact, they might say they hate you or say other negative things. It may take them weeks or months to start recovering. But once they do, they’ll be able to look back and see what a rock star you’ve been. And they’ll greatly appreciate everything you’ve done along their journey to help them.
This blog provides information about telemedicine, health and related subjects. The blog content and any linked materials herein are not intended to be, and should not be construed as a substitute for, medical or healthcare advice, diagnosis or treatment. Any reader or person with a medical concern should consult with an appropriately-licensed physician or other healthcare provider. This blog is provided purely for informational purposes.