Today’s Solutions: May 19, 2024

When a loved one is struggling with depression, it’s easy to feel helpless. However, you do not need to be a therapist to make a significant difference. According to Boston-based therapist and depression specialist Alexandra Vlahakes, PsyD, “There are things you, as a friend, can do to support your pal’s mental health.” Here are five actionable strategies to show up for a loved one during their lowest moments:

Opening the conversation: how to express concern without judgment

Starting a conversation about depression might be intimidating, but it’s critical to approach it with sensitivity and understanding. Dr. Vlahakes recommends starting gradually, expressing gratitude for their openness, or subtly highlighting behavioral changes. By offering a safe space for communication, you allow your friend to disclose their struggles without fear of being judged.

Active listening: the power of being present without offering solutions

When your friend confides in you, resist the impulse to provide fast solutions. Clinical psychologist Lauren Moy, PhD, emphasizes the significance of active listening, stating that merely being there and validating their emotions can be quite helpful. Rather than leaping into problem-solving mode, try to empathize with their experiences and make them feel heard and appreciated.

Inclusion matters: keeping your friend connected even if they withdraw

Depression frequently causes social disengagement, yet being connected is critical for your friend’s well-being. Dr. Vlahakes highlights the importance of continuing to include them in planning and activities, even if they decrease or appear inactive. Your attempts to keep connected express a sense of worth and belonging, which provides consolation in times of solitude.

Acts of kindness: lightening the load through practical assistance

Practical help can help someone suffering from depression cope with the crushing strain of daily tasks. Dr. Vlahakes recommends offering to help with housework or errands, noting that even tiny gestures can make a big difference. Whether you are providing their favorite coffee or assisting with housework, your thoughtfulness communicates concern and compassion.

Encourage professional help: navigating resources for long-term support

While you can offer emotional support, you must encourage your loved one to seek professional care for long-term depression treatment. Dr. Moy underscores the significance of setting boundaries and acknowledging your limitations. Refer them to mental health resources such as therapy directories or low-cost clinics, and offer practical aid in navigating available options.

Finally, overcoming depression requires a diverse strategy, and your position as a caring friend is important. By providing empathy, validation, and practical aid, you give your friend a source of strength as they travel their route to healing.

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