The impact on a person living with someone who is depressed is often overlooked. Caring for a depressed person can often mean putting ones own life on hold. The caring can involve dual roles. For example, they are called upon to be supportive as well as help the depressed person gain some clarity around their disorder.
Friends and family looking after a depressed person often go through stages such as: rationalising, denial, guilt and anger.
The following is a brief check list to assist those living with someone who is depressed:
Validate: - Accept that the person is in emotional pain, do not minimise it or expect them to ‘snap out of it’.
Relate to the Person – Not their Depression:- Separate the problem from the person and remember that depression is not part of who they truly are. Empathise how frustrating it must be to put up with it. If you become angry, you can let them know that it is the depression you are fed up with, not them as a person.
Give Positive Messages: - Comment positively on what the depressed person has managed to do, even if it is only something small. Reassure them they are loved.
Helping with Decision Making: Avoid directly telling the person what to do. Instead ask them what they think their options are. Look for positives in what they have already done.
Eliminate Unhelpful Family Expectations: - It is important for families to be flexible and not adhere to fixed rules which are causing stress.
Establish your Own Supports: Providing support for a person who is feeling depressed can be demanding both physically and emotionally. It is essential that you give some time to yourself to pursue your own needs. It is a myth that you must always be loving and caring. Feelings of anger are normal and common reactions to difficult situations. It is helpful if you can discuss such feelings with someone other than the person who is feeling depressed. If you do not do this you may feel resentful and guilty that you were angry. You need breaks and your own sources of emotional support in order to be an effective support.
Depression is a complex multidimensional disorder with observable signs relating to physiology, behaviour, thinking, feelings and relationships.
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