Do you know someone with Depression? Are you struggling to know how to support them? This article provides practical information to help you to cope.
What do I do?
Depression is a serious and very common problem with one in five people in the UK experiencing depression. As such, pretty much all of us will, at some point, find ourselves in a position of supporting someone we know.
The scary thing is that, whilst we would all know where to find help for life saving techniques such as CPR, bandaging etc, how many of us know where to find practical advice on how best to support someone experiencing Depression. Perhaps because of this, many people are at risk of becoming overwhelmed, confused and will feel helpless. So how do we cope with the anger or indifference the person experiencing the depression might show us, what can we do to ‘keep it all together’ and how do we avoid becoming depressed ourselves?
A Starting Point
Many people find that support groups and online forums are incredibly helpful (I have listed some of these below). Some find that having therapy themselves is helpful in providing them with the resources to cope. This has the double benefit that, if a loved one see’s that it is ok for you to have therapy and recognises that it is having positive effects, they are more likely to seek therapy for themselves.
Tips for supporting yourself in order that you can support your loved one
The most important thing is that you look after your own mental health. The following tips are drawn from the experiences of individuals who have lived with depressed partners (see http://www.storiedmind.com/relationship/what-can-you-do-when-partner-depressed/ for more information):
1. Get Help! Reach out for support whether this is from a caring friend you trust to confide in, an online support group or individual therapy/counselling. Keep on getting help. Take care not to overwhelm friends in the same way that you are at risk of being overwhelmed. If you find that friends are starting to avoid you, then seek professional help.
2. Look after yourself: When a loved one is struggling the most natural thing in the world is to focus on them. You may be driven by a desire to ‘bring them back to their old self’ to the point that you forget about your own needs. You need to spend time on things that help you relax in order that you can be supportive. Be mindful of your own mental and physical well-being. There is nothing wrong with gently explaining to your loved one that you have to look after yourself in order that you can be there to support them.
3. It is not your Fault: You are not to blame for how your loved one feels, the depression is…
4. And you cannot fix it: Even if you are a professional therapist, your loved one needs help from a professional who is not emotionally involved in any way with their situation. Furthermore, you may be able to guide your loved one towards the right kind of help, but they need to commit to the work of recovery and stay with it
5. Offer Love and Support: do not insist, push, demand they get help but instead suggest it might be helpful.
6. Be Aware: Depression is contagious. This is why it is essential to find the right help and to watch your own emotional and physical state.
7. They are responsible for getting help: John Folk-Williams (2013) describes how, when he was depressed he would inflict pain on his family and, when better, would blame the depression. As with a number of my own clients, the turning point which helped him was when his partner set boundaries. As the person supporting someone with depression, you have to recognise when you can’t take anymore, or when they cross a line that can’t be crossed:
– Remind them what is at stake
– remind them what you are feeling
– remind them (in a supportive way) of your limits and insist that they get treatment
So many of my clients have sought help because their partner’s put these boundaries in place. It’s not about being tough or hard, it’s about caring enough for yourself in order that you can continue to be supportive and help the individual who is experiencing depression choose to make those positive changes for themselves.
If you are struggling to cope with depression, or with supporting someone with depression, you may find hypnotherapy or WSN counselling helpful. Contact me now to book a free initial consultation: (01793 677817 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org)