Do you know someone who is suffering from depression? It can be so hard to determine how to best help someone when they are feeling so down and helpless themselves. While you can offer your support and compassion for loved ones who are struggling, it is just as important for you to look after yourself, too. Being a caregiver can take a toll on you if you neglect your own needs.
How to support someone struggling with depression:
- learn about depression so that you can understand that it is an illness, not a choice or sign of weakness (it is best to speak with an experienced psychologist or doctor rather than googling depression)
- ask your loved one what they need from you and how you can best support them - maybe they just want to talk to you, maybe a home cooked meal could help them feel cared for, or maybe connecting them with resources could be what they need
- check in with your loved one, as they may find it too difficult to reach out on their own
- avoid judgmental or criticizing statements, such as "Get over it!" or "What's wrong with you?" - depression is an illness
- try to be understanding, caring, and kind
- listen and offer verbal space rather than lecturing and giving unsolicited advice
- consider buying them a positive book or journal, or learning about depression alongside them
- consider offering to book an appointment with a psychologist or doctor for your loved one to get professional help (they may benefit from you going with them, too)
- if you are concerned that your loved one may be seriously harming him/herself or having severe suicidal thoughts, consider taking them to the nearest hospital emergency, calling 911, or calling the 24/7 distress line at 780-482-HELP (4357)
How to look after yourself:
Ensure to check in with yourself every day and throughout the day to see how you are feeling. If you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed, it is okay to take a moment to pause and recharge, or to plan a self-care activity later in the day. We can get caught up in looking after others and forget about ourselves. I am giving you permission to do whatever you need to do to look after yourself. Now, you must give yourself permission, as well.
- recognize that your role is not to fix or cure someone's depression and that your loved one must take action - you can only support and help as much as your loved one accepts it
- maintain healthy boundaries so that you have time to look after yourself and honour your needs
- continue doing activities that you love to do - think about what makes you happy
- practice stress relieving strategies such as yoga, deep breathing, reading, walking, or using essential oils
- join a support group with people that you can relate to
- surround yourself with friends and positive people that you trust
- consider therapy for yourself so that you are not bottling up your stress
Written by Vanessa Goodchild, Registered Psychologist
Taking the time to speak with a professional psychologist will allow you to develop helpful skills and strategies to take care of yourself and get through these troubling times. Speaking with a psychologist is different than speaking with friends or family, as your conversation will be kept confidential and is unbiased. You can build a life worth living with proper help and guidance. I would be happy to meet with you or your loved one to help you both move forward and enjoy life again.