Here's How You Can Help
Having someone to talk to can go a long way when it comes to dealing with depression. Being present and expressing that you are willing to listen means a lot. When listening to a loved one who is struggling emotionally, it can be tempting to assure that person that everything will be OK. But statements such as "everything will be OK" or "it will get better" may only make the pain worse. Such statements can cause your loved one to feel inadequate because he or she can't manage to feel happy as easily as others do. Instead, aim to empathize with that person, and let him or her know that any and all feelings are OK. Where appropriate, work together to brainstorm potential options so he or she can naturally determine what the next best thought or action might be.
Many people experiencing depression begin to feel as though they are burdens on those around them. So it is important you assure a friend who's experiencing depression that you are there unequivocally — and most important, carry through on that promise. Knowing he or she has ties to the world and ongoing support is the best thing for helping a depressed loved one cope.
It isn't just emotional
It's important to remember that depression isn't just an emotional experience; often physical symptoms come with the illness as well. Your friend or family member may experience changes in sleep patterns, appetite and energy level. These changes may cause him or her to seem fatigued and uninterested in activities that once brought joy. Accept that these physical symptoms are just as real and as challenging as the emotional ones, and give your loved one time to work through them.
Although only the person experiencing depression can make this ultimate decision, encouraging him or her to seek professional assistance is often helpful. Many victims of depression feel ashamed and develop a sense that they should be able to overcome their feelings through willpower alone. Don't be afraid to talk to your loved one about your concerns and how you feel treatment might help.
Don't rush it
Everyone works through depression at his or her own pace. Just as you wouldn't push someone recovering from a broken leg to walk on it before it has healed, you cannot push someone with a mental illness to "just get over it." But by offering your presence, love and support, you can make things a little easier on your loved one — and that can go a long way toward helping him or her cope.
Awareness for depression is on the rise, and that means more and more information is becoming available. Be there for your loved one as well as you can by staying knowledgeable. Check out the Mood Disorders Society of Canada or Depression Hurts for more information.