Do you feel helpless and wonder what to do when you see your loved one showing signs of depression? We’re here to be your resource and help walk you through being supportive and understanding of your loved one. Here are seven things that you can do:
1. Break the Stigma & Encourage Treatment
Even though we’ve read it on a newspaper or online, we still sometimes refuse to acknowledge the manifestation of a mental illness in ourselves or someone we love. Being able to recognize or acknowledge that mental illness is a common problem that a lot of people experience (nearly 1 in 5 in 2020 was diagnosed with a mental illness) can help start the conversation about mental health. Starting the conversation can be the hardest part, and try to ask a variety of questions that may illicit more than a yes or no.
- Talk to the person about what you’ve noticed and why you’re concerned.
- Explain that depression is a medical condition, not a personal flaw or weakness — and that it usually gets better with treatment.
- Suggest seeking help from a professional — a medical doctor or a mental health provider, such as a licensed counselor or psychologist.
- Offer to help prepare a list of questions to discuss in an initial appointment with a doctor or mental health provider.
- Express your willingness to help by setting up appointments, going along to them and attending family therapy sessions.
3. Be an ACTIVE Listener
Watch their facial expression or movement while having this conversation. Listen to interpret what or how they are feeling, not to respond. Sometimes silence allows space for others to open up and speak about difficulties.
4. Provide Support & Resources
Help make an appointment with a doctor and express your concerns. Tell them about the signs your loved one has shown and what you might think it would indicate. It’s also good to brush up on your family’s medical history, especially your loved one’s medical history.
5. Understand Suicide Risk & Worsening Signs
Have a talk with your loved one and express your concerns regarding your observations. A lot of people have different reactions when people take notice of what they’re going through. Others might get angry, sad, or neutral. They’re going through a lot, and they’re as confused as you are, so make sure to broach the subject gently. People with depression are at an increased risk of suicide. If your loved one is severely depressed, prepare yourself for the possibility that at some point he or she may feel suicidal. Take all signs of suicidal behavior seriously and act immediately.
6. Make Your Support Clear
Whether you’re right or wrong in your observations, make sure to show your support clearly. They might have been acting unusual for the past few weeks because they’re going through something they don’t want to talk about. But when they finally do, make sure to lend an ear or anything that you think might give them comfort and reassurance. Be encouraging of treatment and open to listen! Make sure to give positive reinforcement about the reasons why you love having them in your life, and offer assistance with any tasks that might feel daunting. Help to minimize stress in their environment, and make plans together to encourage a hobby or activity that might bring joy.
7. Lastly, it’s hard to be a loved one watching from the sidelines, learn how to help yourself:
- Learn about depression. The better you understand what causes depression, how it affects people and how it can be treated, the better you’ll be able to talk to and help the person you care about.
- Take care of yourself. Supporting someone with depression isn’t easy. Ask other relatives or friends to help and take steps to prevent becoming frustrated or burned out. Find your own time for hobbies, physical activity, friends, and spiritual renewal.
- Finally, be patient. Depression symptoms do improve with treatment, but it can take time. Finding the best treatment may require trying more than one type of medication or treatment approach. For some people, symptoms quickly improve after starting treatment. For others, it will take longer.
If any of this sounded familiar for your elderly loved one, please contact us to learn more about Companion Care, we’re your resource!