The World Health Organization estimates that approximately 300 million people around the world suffer from depression at any given time. Researchers believe that up to 15 percent of the adult population will experience depression during their lifetime. In the United States, 16.2 million adults have had major depression in the past year, and 10.3 million adults with depression experienced symptoms that were severely debilitating.
In addition to medication and counseling, having the support of family and friends can help patients manage their condition. Sometimes, patients experiencing depression may not realize that they are ill and could benefit from help. In these cases, loved ones and those close to the patient can play an especially vital role in attempting to help a depressed individual acknowledge their symptoms and consider taking steps to get professional help.
Supporting a Family Member who has Depression
Caring for a loved one with depression can be challenging. Family members want their loved one to heal, yet they may be unsure of what to say or do to provide effective support.
Appropriate support from family members can take many forms, and these may change by the day. The following support guidelines designed for caregivers may be useful in assisting those close to you with their depression management.
- Offer to help with doctor’s appointments
Many patients with depressive symptoms are afraid to seek professional help from a doctor or mental health professional. If your loved one agrees, offer to make the initial appointment for them; sometimes, just getting through the door is the worst part. If you can, also offer to attend the appointment with your loved one, and make a list of questions to ask the healthcare provider. Going to an appointment with a new doctor or at an unfamiliar clinic can cause anxiety, and having a familiar face there for support can help the patient be less fearful and allow them to talk about their health concerns more openly.
- Offer to help with practical tasks
Patients struggling with clinical depression, particularly major depression, frequently struggle to do everyday tasks and leave the house. Grocery shopping, cooking, and helping children with homework may be overwhelming for the patient. Offer to lighten their load by picking up their shopping for them or babysitting their children for an afternoon. Bring them dinner, and consider getting other friends and family members to sign up for a meal train.
- Stay connected and check in
Isolation worsens depression symptoms. People living with all kinds of depression benefit from social connections, even those that take place online. Send your loved one a text to say hi during the day, or arrange to talk with them online over video chat. Particularly for patients with mild depression, just knowing that someone is thinking of them can ease their symptoms and raise their spirits.
At Mount Vernon Counseling Center, we offer counseling for patients with depression and their caregivers. We can support you and your loved ones in managing and recovering from any form of this condition at any stage.