Spring has (sort of) sprung here in Colorado. And although Spring is typically associated with flowers, butterflies, and bunnies, many don’t realize that it is actually a time when depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts are at the highest for some individuals.
It’s overwhelming to suffer from anxiety or depression, but it can also feel overwhelming when we don’t know how to help a loved one who is suffering. You may feel confused and frustrated yourself. Perhaps you feel like you’re walking on eggshells because you’re afraid of upsetting them even more. Or maybe you’ve tried giving advice or avoiding the situation, but neither of those seems to be helping either.
So what can do you do to help someone who’s going through more than “just the blues”?
Here are five things to consider when supporting a loved one suffering from depression and anxiety:
1. Be there.
This is truly the best thing you can do. Talk to them about how they’re feeling, hold their hand when they cry, just sit in silence with them. If you’re not sure what they need, simply come out and say, “Tell me what I can do to help.” They will appreciate your willingness to help immensely.
2. Remember little things.
Talking about feelings not your forte? Not a problem; there are many non-verbal ways to show support. Grab a cup of coffee with them, send a good morning text, watch a funny video on the internet with them, send a card, cook a meal and bring it over … the possibilities are endless.
3. Stop judging.
It’s difficult when you don’t understand where this person is coming from, but it’s important not to judge. Avoid saying things such as: “I think this is really all just in your head. If you got up out of bed and moved around, you’d see things better.” This can make the person feel like they have chosen to be depressed and to feel miserable. (I assure you, no one makes this choice freely.)
4. Don’t minimize their pain.
Statements such as “You’re too sensitive; lighten up!” or “Why do you let every little thing bother you?” can make a person feel worse. It invalidates what they’re experiencing and completely glosses over the fact that they’re struggling with a difficult disorder – not some weakness or personality flaw.
5. Be patient.
This can be the most difficult thing to remember; however, patience is a pivotal part of supporting your loved one. And this patience has a powerful result. I recently read a quote that said: “With patience, comes hope.” And hope is vital when dealing with mental health disorders.
Ready to have a conversation, but now sure where to start?
Here are some ways to start the conversation:
- I’ve been concerned about how you’re doing lately
- I’ve noticed you’re acting a little “off” and just want to see how you’re doing
- Hey – you seem pretty down lately, what’s going on?
Questions you can ask during the conversation:
- When did you start feeling like this?
- Did something specific happen that made you feel like this?
- Have you considered talking to someone about this? (like a therapist?)
Spring is a season of fresh starts, but for some struggling with anxiety, depression or suicidal thoughts, it can be one of the most difficult times of the year. Keep these things in mind when supporting a loved one. Your willingness to help, love and support can help them through these difficult times.
Shannon Gwash is the Director of Wellness Services for Jefferson Center and is also a Certified Mayo Clinic Wellness Coach. She earned her MS from the University of Denver in Strategic Health Communications/Behavior Change. She has nearly 10 years of experience in the communication world and nearly three in parenting … which clearly makes her an expert there. To stay sane, she runs around Sloan’s Lake, hikes with her daughter, enjoys outdoor concerts and reads nerdy books.