Getting the right support

It is important to acknowledge that talking to a loved one about your/their experiences of depression isn’t going to fix everything. Whilst opening up to someone for the first time is a crucial and brave first step, recovery is a process and it is important to seek professional help when you or your loved one feel ready.

It’s important not to cope with depression alone. Having the right medical and/or therapeutic help in place will help your chances of depression recovery. If you are living with depression and feel ready to speak to a professional about your feelings, you may find the following links a useful place to start:

Global Alliance of Mental Illness Advocacy Networks-Europe
Mental Health Europe – Helplines for young people
World Health Organization
Mental Health Foundation

Encourage your loved one to speak to a professional

Your role is not to be a psychotherapist, and while you can’t control someone else’s recovery from depression, you can encourage them to speak to a professional and direct them to potential resources that they can read, or you can explore together.

If seeking professional help seems daunting to your loved one, some ways that you can offer support include:

Offering to help find a doctor or therapist and go with them to the first visit

Encouraging them to make a list of their symptoms to discuss with the healthcare professional. This can help them feel more prepared for the first visit

Suggesting a general check-up with a physician – your loved one may be less anxious about seeing a family doctor than a mental health professional. This can be a helpful option as the doctor can make a referral to a specialist if depression is diagnosed

Everyone’s mental health matters

To take good care of your loved one, you must also take good care of yourself. Being there for them isn’t always easy, so it’s important to:

Set boundaries around what you can help with and what is the role of a trained professional

Take time for yourself – conversations can be difficult and bring up a lot of emotions so don’t feel guilty if you need to take a break

Make sure that you also have a support network and talk to others. There are networks available, such as

Do not feel that it is your sole responsibility to help them get better. Remind yourself that you’re not a trained professional and just listening and being present for them is a huge help

Learning more about depression may help

Taking the time to learn more about the condition, people’s experiences with it, and how best to talk about it, may help you feel more prepared to support your loved one. You could join a local support group, talk to a healthcare professional, or find resources online. For example:

European Federation of Associations of Families of People with Mental Illness
World Health Organization
Mental Health Foundation

Reading about what depression can feel like, as well as the myths, misconceptions, and stigma around mental illness, can help you understand your loved one’s experience more clearly.

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