How to Care for a Person With Clinical Depression

If you have a loved one that has been diagnosed with clinical depression, you know how serious it can be. Helping someone with depression is challenging.

However, your support and encouragement can make a difference in his or her life. Whether it’s a spouse, family member or friend, you play a part in the person’s recovery process and can help him or her cope with depression.

Millions of individuals suffer from depression, so you and your loved one are not alone. If you feel helpless or unsure what to do, this guide offers many practical strategies and ideas for offering assistance, supporting your loved one, maintaining your own equilibrium and understanding what clinical depression means for the both of you as you move forward.

Understanding a Person With Clinical Depression

Knowing some basic facts about depression is a helpful first step in understanding what your loved one is experiencing. Use the following tips to reach a better perspective of your loved one’s depression.

  • Learn about the symptoms of depression. Symptoms of depression include lost interest in things that once excited the person, social withdrawal, a negative outlook on life, mood swings, feelings of hopelessness, complaints of aches and pains, tiredness and drinking or abusing drugs. These symptoms can be confusing and upsetting to you, especially if they are severe enough to cause noticeable problems in your loved one’s daily life.
  • Seek professional help for diagnosis and treatment. As you may already be aware, depression inflicts suffering and emotional pain on your loved one, but it also impacts those around them. The good news is that depression, while serious, is treatable and a diagnosis of clinical depression identifies the issue and marks the beginning of moving towards treatment and recovery.
  • Keep track of the person’s symptoms. While you may initially feel helpless and not sure where to start, there are many ways to support your loved one. In fact, caregivers like you are often the first line of defense in the fight against depression. You can help identify and recognize symptoms, then assess improvements or setbacks. Your influence, love and concern are important to motivate him or her to continue the recovery journey.
  • Keep having healthy, open discussions about depression. The simple act of talking to one another and listening with an open heart unlocks healing conversations. Because depression tends to make people withdraw emotionally, don’t be surprised if your loved one tries to isolate him/herself from you. Just keep trying to build a connection by being gentle, but persistent.
  • Remember, your role is not to “fix” him or her. While it’s natural to want to solve problems for a person you love or take the pain away, remember that you can’t control your loved one’s depression. In general, depression is not something that your loved one can just snap out of. As such, a single conversation is unlikely to solve the problem. Depression is a serious mental health condition and your loved one needs to continue with professional treatment in order to make strides towards mental health. What you can offer is love, encouragement, positivity and support along the way.

Strategies for Caring for a Person With Clinical Depression

Even though your loved one has an official diagnosis is undergoing therapy from a mental health professional and has begun the road to recovery, you are still an important part of the process.

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Your support is invaluable. Use some of the following strategies when caring for a person with clinical depression.

Be a Safe Space

One of the best things you can do is be a good listener. Allow your loved one to share his or her thoughts and feelings freely without judgment. Sometimes the most powerful thing you can do is just be there for support, such as:

  • Validating the person’s feelings
  • Being a compassionate listener
  • Being empathetic by trying to understand how the person feels
  • Reminding the person that you love and appreciate him or her

Be Patient and Let Treatment Takes Its Course

Treatment takes time and there is no overnight solution. If possible, learn about the person’s treatment plan so that you can be completely on board and back up the suggestions given by the mental health team.

Avoid offering your own personal advice or over-simplifying depression. While it’s natural to want to offer “solutions,” remind yourself that your loved one has not chosen to be depressed and there is no easy fix. You avoid disappointment by being realistic and show compassion by being patient.

Ask How You Can Help

Beyond just encouraging treatment, you can offer support by assisting in monitoring medication or helping the person stay on top of appointments. Find practical ways to help.

If you aren’t sure how, then ask, “How can I help?” You might be surprised how much a simple act like washing the dishes can mean, particularly for someone who is struggling with depression and may have a hard time just getting out of bed in the morning.

Simply asking “What can I do for you?” is a great place to start. Small gestures like a kind text message, a hug or stopping by for some quality time are other ways to show you care.

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