Walking through the struggle of depression can be incredibly difficult. While each individual will have their own, unique story of struggle and healing, there is one constant that remains for each who finds freedom – the help and comfort of a close friend.
As a Berkeley psychologist skilled in treating depression, I have worked with many clients who have suffered with and without the help of a trusted friend or confidant in their corner. Time and again, those who find hope and healing from depression often report having had an individual in their lives who risked their relationship to speak openly about their struggles.
If you know someone who you suspect is struggling with depression, you may be one of the best hopes that they have for taking steps toward healing.
Wondering how you can help shine the light for individuals suffering? Here are four tips for how to engage in a conversation with a loved one who you are concerned is struggling with depression, or may be having suicidal thoughts:
1. Study Up On The Latest Information On Depression
Before you jump in and attempt to engage with a depressed individual, it can be beneficial to invest some time in reading some blogs, articles, and other material related to depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses. Make sure to research the source, and seek advice and guidance from trained and licensed therapists. There are numerous articles on my own blog here that you can read to learn more about depression and the treatment process.
2. Don’t Start The Conversation At Depression
While there are certain situations that require a direct intervention – such as mentions of suicide or dangerous behavior – when you first start engaging with a loved one about their mental illness, it is best to ease into the conversation with peace and calm. Taking steps to ensure that the individual doesn’t feel cornered or trapped in the conversation will help them to open up and trust that you are a safe confidant.
That said, never attempt to coerce or bait-and-switch an individual into a conversation about their mental health. Any attempt to try and sneak into a conversation will risk further endangering an individual’s ability to communicate openly and safely about their mental state and needs.
3. Offer Safety & Accountability
The depression recovery process is a journey for every individual. There are bound to be twists, turns, successes, and failures along the way. Therefore, always offer a caring and open shoulder for an individual to cry on, and a confident and courageous ear to hear the highs and lows of their journey.
The door to healing may open slowly at first, but over time you will build a strong and safe space for your loved one to share their heart and come to you with their deepest struggles.
4. Keep Expectations Low & Steady
The desire to help friends or family who are journeying through depression is to see them recover and find freedom from their struggle. However, the process of treating and recovering from depression is as unique as every individual who experiences this mental illness.
As you begin to work through and open up with someone who is suffering from depression, make sure to move at the speed they are comfortable moving. Keep your expectations low in terms of conversation length, amount of information the individual reveals, and the response they give to any questions or queries.
These tips – while not exhaustive – can be the first steps toward building a strong and healthy relationship with an individual who is in need of a safe space to open up about their struggle. If you would like to learn more about depression and other mental illnesses, or are interested in the services I offer as a Berkeley psychologist, visit my site online today.