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Ways to Support a Depressed Family Member

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Supporting someone you love who is suffering from depression can be challenging. We all feel helpless when someone we love is hurting and want to do all we can to help. Here are some things you can do to help your loved ones suffering from depression.

Learn the Symptoms of Depression

It is important to know the symptoms, so you know when your loved one needs mental health assistance. The symptoms can vary greatly for everyone.

  • Feelings of sadness, tearfulness, emptiness or hopelessness
  • Angry outbursts, irritability or frustration, even over small matters
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in most or all normal activities, such as sex, hobbies or sports
  • Insomnia or sleeping too much
  • Tiredness and lack of energy, so even small tasks take extra effort
  • Changes in appetite — reduced appetite and weight loss or increased cravings for food and weight gain
  • Anxiety, agitation or restlessness
  • Slowed thinking, speaking or body movements
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixating on past failures or blaming yourself for things that aren’t your responsibility
  • Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things
  • Frequent or recurrent mention of death, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts or suicide
  • Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches

Symptoms of depression, for many people, create noticeable problems in daily activities such as work, school, relationships, and social activities. Other may experience general malaise and unhappiness. Children and teens tend to demonstrate irritability rather than appearing sad.

Encourage Them to Seek Treatment

Another action that can be taken to help a loved one is to encourage them to seek treatment. Many people with depression do not even realize they are depressed. They may not recognize the symptoms in themselves. Other times they are not willing to acknowledge their symptoms out of shame or a belief that they should be able to overcome it themselves. The problem is, depression rarely gets better without treatment, and is likely to get worse.

You can talk to your loved one about what you have noticed and why you are concerned. You can explain that if it is depression, it is a medical condition that they cannot control on their own, and that treatment can help them. Encourage them to talk to their doctor or a mental health provider. Offer to help them prepare a list of questions to discuss with their doctor, such as types of treatment. As well as antidepressant medications and therapy, ketamine infusion therapy treatments are extremely effective. Assist them in making appointments and going with them to family therapy sessions. If they are exhibiting possible life-threatening behavior, contact a doctor or emergency services for them.

Know the Signs of Worsening Depression

Since everyone with depression experiences different symptoms, know the symptoms your loved one exhibits. Observe their behaviors so you will recognize a change. Know how they act and what they speak like when they are doing well, and what changes take place when their depression is worse. Learn the circumstance that trigger episodes of severe depression so you can support them through those situations or help them to avoid them. Learn some activities that are helpful when their depression worsens.

Encourage them to work with their doctor or mental health provider to develop a plan of action for when their symptoms reach a certain point. That may mean discussing adjusting or changing their medication, talking with their counselor, and personally adjusting their behaviors to improve their health, such as healthy meals, proper sleep, and becoming physically active. The key is, when their depression worsens, they need to be treated as soon as possible.

Understand Potential Suicide Risk

People suffering from depression are at greater risk of suicide. Severe depression can put your loved one in a position that they may feel suicidal at some point. Suicidal behavior must be taken seriously and acted upon immediately. Talk to your loved one; ask if they have been thinking about attempting suicide or have a plan of how they may do it. When someone has an actual plan, they are more likely to attempt suicide. Contact their doctor or mental health provider for help. Keep other family members and close friends informed. Twenty-four-hour help is available at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Veterans can seek help specific to their potential symptoms at that same number by using Option 1 to reach the Veterans Crisis Line. Make sure their options are limited by creating a safe environment for them, limiting accessibility to firearms, weapons, and potentially harmful medications. If you need immediate assistance to prevent them from harming themselves, call 911 and stay with them until assistance arrives.

Suicidal Warning Signs

  • Talking about suicide, making comments about killing themselves, wishing to be dead or never born
  • Actions to provide means for attempting suicide, purchasing a gun, stockpiling pills, etc.
  • Withdrawing from social contact and wanting to be left alone
  • Having mood swings, such as being emotionally high one day and deeply discouraged the next
  • Being preoccupied with death, dying or violence
  • Feeling trapped or hopeless about a situation
  • Increasing use of alcohol or drugs
  • Changing normal routine, including eating or sleeping patterns
  • Doing risky or self-destructive things, such as using drugs or driving recklessly
  • Giving away belongings or getting affairs in order when there’s no other logical explanation for why this is being done
  • Saying goodbye to people as if they won’t be seen again
  • Developing personality changes or being severely anxious or agitated, particularly when experiencing some of the warning signs listed above

Be Supportive

Remember that depression is not their fault. You can’t fix their depression, but you can support them as they seek help. Be encouraging regarding their treatments, helping them to stay on top of their medications and appointments. Listen carefully when they want to talk, without being judgmental or giving advice. Just be understanding and listen without trying to give your opinions. Remind them of their positive qualities and how much they mean to you and their loved ones, especially when they are judging themselves and finding fault. Some people will struggle with completing specific tasks, offer them help and take on the task if you can. Help them to create routines to make them feel in control. Offer to create schedules for medications, physical activity, sleep, meals, and chores, which all help in creating a low-stress environment.

Keep in mind that depression is much more than just feeling sad. Avoid telling them that everyone feels that way at times, or making statements such as “cheer up”, “snap out of it” or other comments that make them feel hopeless. They cannot control the feelings they are having. Depression is a disorder that requires treatment just like any other medical condition.

There are many organizations that provide counseling, support groups, and other resources for depression. Some examples are the National Alliance of Mental Illness, employee assistance programs, and many faith-based organizations. For many people, faith is an important part of recovery from depression, and should be encourages when appropriate. Spend time with your loved one, take walks, see movies, join an activity together, but don’t push them to do anything they are not ready to do.

Lastly, take care of yourself. As we said in the beginning, it can be difficult supporting someone dealing with depression. Ask others for help so you don’t become frustrated. Family, friends, and support groups are all options for help. Find time for yourself and your own activities and friends. Taking care of yourself is important so that you can support your loved one. Be patient and realize that treatment for depression can take time. Finding the best treatment for each person may mean trying different medications. Some people may show improvement quickly, others will take longer to find what helps them.

Ketamine Infusion Centers are here to help your loved ones suffering from depression. Results of ketamine infusion therapy for depression can be immediate and are very successful. Contact Ketamine Infusion Centers today and discuss your options for depression treatment.

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