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How to Support Someone Struggling with Depression

In our fast-paced modern world, feeling alienated, disconnected, and lonely is easy. Our relationships often suffer, pushed aside by the relentless demands of daily life. Yet, maintaining strong connections with our loved ones and community is vital for our mental well-being. It can be deeply distressing to watch someone we care about struggle with depression. This experience can evoke a sense of helplessness and even threaten our mental health. Recognizing this, we must use knowledge and effective strategies to provide meaningful support.

This blog aims to deepen your understanding of mental health and depression. It will equip you with practical tools and strategies to support your loved ones and safeguard your well-being. Join me in exploring how we can all become more informed and empathetic allies in the fight against depression.

Understanding depression

Depression is a complex mental health disorder affecting millions of people worldwide. It goes beyond just feeling sad at times; it is persistent and can affect every aspect of one’s life, from work to relationships, significantly reducing one’s quality of life. 

Symptoms & Definition

At its core, depression is defined as persistent feelings of despair, emptiness, and hopelessness and does not disappear with effort and time. Symptoms include:

  • Feeling sad or having a depressed mood
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed
  • Changes in appetite — weight loss or gain unrelated to dieting
  • Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Loss of energy or increased fatigue
  • Increase in purposeless physical activity (e.g., inability to sit still, pacing, handwringing) or slowed movements or speech (these actions must be severe enough to be observable by others)
  • Feeling worthless or guilty
  • Difficulty thinking, concentrating or making decisions
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
How to help someone struggling with depression

Supporting someone with depression is not merely an act of kindness; it is a crucial intervention that can have profound implications for their recovery and overall well-being. Depression is a debilitating condition that affects every aspect of a person’s life—from their relationships and self-esteem to their professional productivity and physical health. It can lead to a debilitating cycle of isolation and worsening symptoms, making external support vital.

  • Listen Without Judgment: Create a safe and supportive environment by listening attentively and empathetically, allowing your loved one to express their feelings without fear of judgment or criticism.
  • Offer Practical Assistance: Ease the daily burden by helping with tasks like meal preparation or errands, which can be overwhelming for someone struggling with depression.
  • Stay Informed: Enhance your ability to support by educating yourself about depression, its symptoms, and treatments, ensuring your help is informed and sensitive to their needs.
  • Encourage Professional Help: Encourage your loved one to seek professional mental health treatment.
What to Avoid
  • Avoid Minimizing Their Feelings: Explain why saying things like “it could be worse” or “just cheer up” can be harmful.
  • Don’t Take It Personally: Your loved one’s depression is not your fault. It is normal for people struggling with their mental health to act in a way that may feel hurtful to them. However, it is important to remember that their words and actions are often influenced by their mental state and not a direct reflection of their feelings towards you. 

Supporting a loved one with depression is a journey that requires patience, understanding, and a strong commitment to empathy. Throughout this blog, we have explored the intricacies of depression—a condition that profoundly impacts the emotional and physical well-being of millions. By implementing strategies like listening without judgment, offering practical assistance, staying informed, and encouraging professional help, you can make a significant difference in the life of someone battling this challenging disorder.

It is crucial to approach this support role with compassion and an open heart, always remembering not to take their actions personally or minimize their feelings. As you are navigating a loved one’s mental health struggles, it is important to look out for your own.

If you feel you or someone you know is struggling with your mental health, consider booking an appointment with one of our psychologists or therapists at Scarborough Psychology Clinic. Click here to book an appointment.

Additional Resources: The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression by Andrew Solomon