When my psychiatrist first diagnosed me with depression, I put some real thought and preparation into how to tell my closest friends and family. It’s not something one can easily bring up in casual conversation, (i.e.: “Hey, did you catch the ball game last night? By the way, I’m depressed.”)
It was not an easy thing to bring up, but when I did, the reaction of my family and friends made a huge difference in the trajectory of my treatment. Their support, which is founded on FOUR simple truths, has been invaluable to my healing process.
Here are those four truths, which are great for anyone to keep in mind when a loved one is experiencing depression:
1. It is real.
Depression is a real condition, just like any other illness. Acknowledging and taking it seriously will do a lot to make your friend or loved one feel supported.
I was lucky to have family and friends who applauded my willingness to open up about my depression and get treatment. There has been a temptation for me to be prideful or doubtful about how serious my depression is; that others take it seriously has alleviated that temptation. Also, talking about depression out in the open has done a lot to diminish its power over me.
2. It is not your loved one’s fault.
One of the most beautiful things when I told my family about my depression diagnosis was that they didn’t blame or judge me. They did not tell me that what I was dealing with was “normal” and that I should just be happier with my life. Instead, they listened and listened some more, replacing rash judgment with an earnest desire to understand my situation.
Also, I knew that several people in my immediate family had serious misgivings about psychiatric treatment and medications based on their experiences with other people or things they had “heard.” But when I told these family members about MY treatment and medication regimen, they did not discount me based on their own preconceived notions. Instead, they encouraged me in following through with treatment and observing the effects. This open-minded support has elevated my motivation so much.
3. It is not your fault.
When you find out that someone close to you has depression, there may be a temptation to look inward and examine whether you could have/should have done something different to prevent it from happening. This may be especially true the closer you are to the person and the more you have (like me), an overachiever’s mentality.
If this sounds familiar, remember that depression, like other illnesses, can be caused by many factors that are beyond anyone’s control. When discussing my depression with my family, guilt and blame were put aside in favor of recognizing triggers and dealing with them in a healthy way. This has made my treatment much more productive.
4. There is a lot that you both can do about it.
The great news about depression is that, while it can be caused by things that are beyond our control, it can be treated with many things that are in our control.
When your loved one tells you about his or her depression, you may want to compliment him or her for having the bravery to acknowledge the condition and get help. It is such a strong thing to do.
Your loved one’s treatment plan will likely include talk therapy and medication. So, ask your friend how this is going. How does the medication feel? What is the therapist like? Conversations with you will make conversations with their doctor/therapist/etc. even more productive. Yes, you have that power.
Your loved one’s depression may be strong, but so is your ability to help her or him through it. Whatever caused the depression is in the past, but because of your support, your loved one’s future can be very bright.
If you or someone you know experiences problems with depression or other mental health issues, it is important to seek help from a qualified professional. Our Resource Specialist can help you find expert mental health resources to recover in your community. Contact us now for more information on this free service to our users.
Author Bio: Brian A. Robinson is a husband and father of 3 children under four. He is a teacher, attorney, and manager. He would love to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The opinions and views expressed in this guest blog do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc.
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