Depression, an incapacitating and an isolating disorder, can jeopardize relationships, if not handled well. A person living with a depressed individual might feel neglected and deprived and in turn, adopt an indifferent approach. Sometimes, he or she may feel like walking on the eggshells because of the attitude and reaction of the depressed person. However, it is important to understand that with a little care and some effort, the relationship can be salvaged. Here are some steps that can be taken to extend support to a depressed person:
- Trying to be there with them: Depression can get agonizing for the depressed individuals and their loved ones. Nonetheless, one can still provide support by holding hands, providing reassurance that everything will be alright through the eyes or by giving a gentle back rub. One can also say comforting words like, “You are not alone in this,” “We will find out a way together” or “You are so important to me.”
- Trying small loving gestures: Some people are not very comfortable with emotional expressions. They can still extend their support by trying gestures like packing a lunch for the one who is depressed, leaving a care or a love note in the lunch box, sending them a text after regular intervals, helping them with the laundry, doing grocery shopping for or with them, accompanying them for a walk, etc.
- Avoid judging or criticizing: It can be very tempting to tell a depressed person that he or she is overreacting or lacking a perspective; however, these words can puncture a person’s self-esteem. Thus, these must be avoided Depression is a serious mental disorder that can’t be won over with a change in outlook or by developing strong willpower. It is important that a friend or a loved one validates the feelings and emotions of the depressed person so that the latter can think of moving forward.
- Paying attention to their self-care: Oftentimes, depressed people find it hard to pay attention to their self-care. They might not get out of bed the whole day, might skip meals, might not take shower for days, etc. This is the time when a friend or a loved one can pitch in and help them make their bed, eat some hot and nutritious meal, take a shower, and exercise and meditate.
- Rewarding them instead of punishing: Threatening a depressed person by saying things like, “If you don’t take care of yourself, eat dinner, sleep on time, I’ll end this relationship,” is a merciless way of telling them that they are awful. Instead, one should use statements that are rewarding and encouraging at the same time like “Oh! You are up early, shall we go for a run?” or “Wow you cooked dinner, should I help with the dishes?”
- Encouraging them to challenge their negative thought processes: Depressed people have serious negative thinking patterns. It is important for a friend or a loved one to help them question these thoughts empirically. For example, if they say, “I’m worthless,” or “I’m horrible,” one must ask them gently what makes them think like that and this discussion should be helpful in breaking the negative patterns.
Depression is curable: Depression is treatable and one must never challenge the power of treatment. Even though the self-help and support systems can help in the symptom alleviation, none can be as helpful as therapy. Therefore, one must help the depressed to seek treatment.
By Barbara Odozi