Tips for Handling Difficulties With Clinical Depression
Depression can bring on its fair share of struggles for both the afflicted individual and the caregiver. When going through a particularly rough episode of depression, remember the following:
- Identify signs of worsening depression. While everyone experiences clinical depression differently, observing your loved one and seeing how it affects him or her helps you identify when it’s getting worse. Pay attention to possible triggers, activities help the person and things that hurt the recovery process. If you sense that the person’s depression is worsening, encourage your loved one to seek treatment as soon as possible. An adjustment or change medications might be needed.
- Identify signs of suicidal behavior. Though it might be hard to imagine that someone you know and love would consider suicide, if your loved one is severely depressed, you need to be prepared to face the possibility that he or she may feel suicidal at some point. Take suicidal behavior seriously and do not leave the person alone. Common warning signs include talking about suicide, withdrawing from social contact, getting the means to commit suicide such as buying a weapon, increasing the use of alcohol or drugs, getting affairs in order and saying goodbye. Remember, depression clouds judgment and sometimes something as drastic as ending his or her own life may feel like the only option. Call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Hotline immediately. Remove any potentially dangerous objects in the environment and follow up with his or her doctor.
- Take small steps toward getting professional treatment. If your loved one is resistant to getting help to continue treating his or her clinical depression, the person might be feeling anxious about meeting with a mental health professional. Suggest a general checkup with a physician, as this might help the person feel more comfortable and less intimidated. Hearing the doctor’s medical advice might help your loved one take professional guidance more seriously. If the person is unhappy with his or her current therapist, help the person find another one. Finding the right provider and treatment involves trial and error that someone who is already depressed may not have energy for. Your research and assistance can make a big difference.
Learn About Resources to Help Care for a Person With Clinical Depression
There are many resources to gather more information, learn about clinical trials and medication, financial support and more.
Information on Depression and Mental Health Care
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Anxiety and Depression Association of America and the National Institute for Mental Health are wonderful sources for facts, statistics and information. For help with finances or managing the cost of therapy, check out the Partnership for Prescription Assistance, NeedyMeds, Together Rx Access and CareforYourMind. To find a mental health professional in your area, visit the American Psychiatric Association website.
Find Out About Online Communities to Discuss Mental Health
Looking to learn more ways to offer support? The Family Caregiver Alliance also has lots of information for caregivers like you and ways to get connected. The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance has articles about what to do and what not to do when helping your loved one get help for depression. Some other organizations that you might find helpful are the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, Families for Depression Awareness and MoodNetwork. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK (8255)) is funded by the U.S. government and provides free, 24-hours assistance by phone or through their website with an online chat tool.
Learn Natural Ways to Cope With Depression
Finding an exercise or physical activity program is proven to help modify the effects of depression. Consider joining your loved one for a daily walk or regular exercise class. Look for an activity that is convenient and that your loved one enjoys and be able to integrate into a routine.
Encourage him or her to adopt a mind-body technique such as prayer, meditation or yoga. There are online resources, free videos and phone apps that make instruction easy and accessible anywhere you go.
Your loved should ask his or her doctor about taking supplements such as omega-3 fatty acids, which are popular for treating symptoms of depression. You can also look into light therapy, which can be helpful in altering brain chemicals such as melatonin.
Learn Caregiver Self-Care Strategies
Just as it’s important for your loved one to continue his or her recovery journey, it’s equally important for you to take care of your own mental, physical and emotional health. Loving and caring for someone with depression can be draining and puts you at risk for a decreased quality of life. Because depression may be a part of his or her life (as well as your own) for a long time, you need the energy to keep your strength, hope and motivation.
When your own needs are met, you can be a better support for him or her as well. Practice the following self-care strategies.
- Take time for yourself by doing things that make you feel good. Your own health suffers if you let your loved one’s depression constantly get in the way of your own wellbeing. It’s important to set boundaries. If you let your loved one’s depression become all-consuming, you may experience resentment, burnout and depression yourself.
- Express your emotions. It’s okay to be frustrated and it’s important to speak up for yourself when your loved one is hurting or upsetting you. Leaving negative emotions unaddressed only damages the relationship in the long run. It’s better to have an honest, open discussion than to let bitterness grow.
- Get help when you need it. Because you can’t care for your loved one around the clock, seek support from others. You can only do so much by yourself. Just like he or she needs the help of a professional therapist, you also need help. Join a support group, meet with a counselor or talk to someone you trust. Ask other family members or friends to help out. Delegate or share responsibilities with others. Having someone else to check in, stop by or hang out with your loved one is a great idea. With the help of professionals and the support of family and friends, your loved one’s quality and enjoyment of life have the potential to significantly improve with time. You are an essential part of the recovery process.