How to reach out to a loved one with Depression

When we begin to notice that someone close to us has been in a low space, withdrawn, feeling hopeless or worthless for an extended amount of time, our first alarm bell is in our feelings of concern. Feeling down from time to time is a normal part of life. We all go through ups and downs in our mood and sadness is a normal reaction to life’s struggles, setbacks, and disappointments. Many people use the word “depression” to explain these kinds of feelings, but depression is much more than just sadness. When emptiness and despair take hold and won’t go away, it may be depression. Whatever the symptoms, depression is different from normal sadness in that it engulfs day-to-day life, interfering with the ability to work, study, eat, sleep, and have fun. The feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and worthlessness are intense and unrelenting.

Louise Hay describes the metaphysical meaning of depression as: “Anger you feel you do not have a right to have”. Depression can be the result of our anger turned inwards and the result of not feeling worthy to experience the pleasure of life or losing hope that life can offer fulfillment. Anger and sorrow are natural responses to feeling unworthy. Our worthiness arises from within us when we hold in compassion the parts of ourselves that are crying out to be understood and loved.

Depression hurts, physically and mentally. It affects the person’s ability to work and function. And, it hurts those who love someone suffering from it. The likelihood of being close to, or knowing someone with serious depression is high. The Challenging Times Two study (Published Oct 2013) showed that 19.5% of young Irish adults aged 19-24 were experiencing a mental disorder at the time the study was conducted.

When you have concerns about someone you care about, here are some things that may help you to reach out to them:

Get informed: Finding out as much as you can about depression and its symptoms can help you better understand what someone is going through, as well as to be able to more accurately identify their symptoms.

Acknowledgement: Taking the first step of acknowledging to the person that you have noticed how they have been feeling can help them to feel reassured that they are not alone. People can often feel that their depression is something they feel they must hide, in order to maintain their usual life. They can see it as a weakness or a cry for attention and may feel like not telling anyone. This acknowledgment that you know how low they are feeling may be the little “push” they need to start talking about it, and maybe even seek help.

Choose when to talk: If you want to bring up a sensitive issue with someone, try and choose a time when you are both relaxed. Avoid talking to them during an argument or if they are upset.

Be there to listen: A good listener can sometimes be vastly more helpful than someone who tries to offer solutions. Sometimes giving advice and offering solutions can stop the flow of conversation when the person may just need an empathetic ear. Being understanding and kind and willing to listen creates a safe space where they can open up about how they are feeling. Try to make conversations about what they’re going through easy and caring. Ask them what you can do to help – find out what they find helpful during tough times. Acknowledge they are feeling down while remaining positive and encouraging.

Accept their condition: If someone is suffering from symptoms of depression, it isn’t possible for them to just snap out of it, cheer up, or forget about it. Asking them to do this can come across like you’re not taking their feelings seriously and could upset or alienate them.

Encourage them to get help: Depression can have a range of symptoms from mild to serious. The more support that the person feels around them, the better their chances of getting through it positively so it’s really important that they seek help. Recommending they go and talk to a counsellor or psychotherapist, link with a mental health support service or visit their GP can help them get on the path towards receiving the right kind of support. You could offer to go with them if they’re worried or need extra support. It may seem daunting at first because it means admitting that your friend or family member is ill, and that you could not help them.

Be patient if they aren’t ready: If you think a friend needs to visit an expert but they didn’t respond well to the suggestion, don’t force the issue or put too much pressure on them – it could put them off getting help. Remain supportive by offering help and suggestions when asked. The exception to this is if you think someone may be in danger or at risk of hurting themselves or someone else. In this case it’s important that you seek help immediately.

The love and support from people who care is often what helps save a depressed person from their pain. Those who have strong social support and loved ones to lean on recover from depression much more quickly than those who are isolated or have isolated themselves. One of the most supportive things a friend can do is to help the individual seek the right kind of professional help.

At Aria Therapy we have a team of skilled psychotherapists, counsellors and healers that have many years experience and success working positively with sufferers of depression. Depression can make a person feel helpless, hopeless, or empty and numb; but there’s a lot that can be done to help change how they feel. With the help and support from one of our therapists, depression can be overcome and life can get back on track. The key to recovery is to start small and take things one day at a time. Feeling better takes time, but making positive choices each day and drawing on the support of others is the beginning.

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“Whenever you feel out of touch, sad, or like you are floundering, just stop in that moment and ask, “How may I serve?” Then reach out in any small serving capacity and notice how purposeful you feel.