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6 Ways to Support a Loved One With Major Depressive Disorder

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Major depressive disorder isolates you from the rest of the world in subtle ways.

For example, sometimes you no longer crave the food or prefer to talk about topics others do. Those strings get cut off one by one and before you know it, everything and everyone around you can seem foreign. And sometimes, no one will ever know you feel this way if you are highly functional.

A person with depression needs one major thing. Support! I have been stuck in this black hole for long and I know what it feels like. Based on my experiences, I have decided to share the ways you can support a friend or loved one during a vicious bout of depression.

1. Understand it is an illness.

Everyone makes a mistake here. Do not confuse general sadness with depression and tell the person to “get over it.” Understand it is an illness and the person cannot get over it by sheer will. A depressed brain can generate the feelings of sadness and negative thoughts. It is not the person’s fault. It can help to do some online research to gain a better knowledge of their illness. Once you understand their illness is not who they are, you are halfway through.

2. Check on the person.

Many people lack the will to open up to people for fear of being hurt. Silence can turn deadly if someone is considering suicide. Keeping mum and acting like the person isn’t going through depression is foolish. Check in on the person from time to time. Ask them about their treatment and therapy and if you can do anything to help them. Perhaps once a week or even once a month. Show them they aren’t alone and you care about them. A friendly “how are you?” can go a long way.

3. Don’t preach. Listen.

When you check on them and they tell you about their feelings, just listen. Don’t preach about how “life is unfair” or tell them to “be strong and brave.” I have had people tell me how weak and attention seeking I am. One of my friends even told me to “stop whining and shut the hell up.” One of the doctors I met actually laughed when I told him about my suicidality. Those replies have often prevented me from opening up to people. Responses like this don’t help a depressed person. It only pushes them far away. You don’t even have to say anything. Just listen to what they say and pat their hands to show your care.

4. Help them get stuff done.

A person with depression might find it difficult to do any job. Be it a shower or a daily meal or a major business project. There are days when I can barely have a bath and a meal. On some days, I manage it all efficiently. The point is, while some manage to pull it off, some can struggle to even take one step. Help them get it done in the simplest of ways possible.

5. Encourage them to get help.

Struggling in silence is never going to help. Motivate them to get help in the form of professional help. Some people with depression feel ashamed to get help due to the stigma in our society surrounding mental illnesses. People still consider going to the psychiatrists is for “crazy” people. They label the depressed as “weak” and “attention seeking.” These can take a toll on the person’s mental health. Tell them how strong they are for fighting suicidal thoughts and negativity to survive every day. Tell them getting help isn’t a sign of weakness, but a sign of bravery. On many occasions, getting help saves lives from suicide!

6. Be patient.

This is the most important part. Patience is virtue when you are dealing with a depressed person. With the right medication and therapy, some people might get over depression in a few months. Some might take years, while some can take a lifetime. There are also some who relapse from time to time after recovery. Helping someone for one day isn’t going to make a big change. Be patient and support them in their battle for as long as it takes.

And believe me, it might be the most noble thing you ever did in your life!

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

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Image via Thinkstock

Originally published: January 26, 2017
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