While living with someone with depression, many aspects of your daily life can be changed and unique stressors can be introduced. It may be difficult to help care for someone else while also ensuring that you are taking care of yourself. Since twenty percent of individuals in the U.S. will experience major depression at some point in their life, there is a good chance that you will end up living with or helping care for a loved one with this mental disorder.
Firstly, knowing the signs of depression can help you understand whether your loved one is actually experiencing it. Not everyone experiences the same symptoms. One person may exhibit the stereotypical symptoms of sadness, inability to get out of bed, and excessive crying, while another may become overly irritable, angry, or anxious. Other signs that you can look for include changes in appetite or sleep, feelings of hopelessness, or loss of interest in activities that they used to enjoy.
Don’t take these changes in their personality personally. It is easy to become frustrated, but remember that your loved one can’t help their mental illness in much the same way as a physically injured individual can’t miraculously recover. But this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t also be focusing on yourself and your own needs as well.
Communicating with your loved one or roommate is extremely important. They may not be aware that they are depressed or that their actions have been affecting you. Additionally, they may be anxious or ashamed about reaching out to either their friends and family or a professional for help. Explain to them that you have been feeling concerned, and that you understand that it isn’t their fault that they are feeling this way. You can also help them seek professional help, whether that be by giving moral support or physically accompanying them to their therapy sessions. Making plans together to do things that they have previously enjoyed can also help motivate them and remember what they enjoy doing.
While they are seeking out help, you can also reach out to mental health professionals or support groups yourself. Helping to care for another’s emotional and mental wellbeing can be draining. Talking to a therapist or to other individuals who are also living with and caring for loved ones with depression can help relieve pent-up stress and give you coping mechanisms. It can also help you learn and better understand depression, how it presents, and how it can be treated. Physical exercise, time for hobbies, and hanging out with other friends can help destress you as well.
Most importantly, make sure that you are aware of signs of deterioration. Since this is someone that you live with and that you are close to, you will know what daily behaviors and emotions look like for them. If they begin to act happy and upbeat all of a sudden, engage in risky behaviors, or start to give away things that are important to them, they may be at risk of suicide. You can ask them if this is what they are planning, and give them resources such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255). You can also contact their doctor, mental health provider, or family, and even call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline yourself. If there is an immediate risk, call 911 and make sure to stay with them until help arrives.
Be patient while they recover. Recovery isn’t linear, and sometimes people will get better only to later lose this progress. Remind them that setbacks are inevitable and a part of the recovery process. Finding a mental health provider and potentially using medication is a good treatment approach that should be encouraged and maintained. Recognize their improvements and point them out, since this can encourage them to continue their treatment plan and efforts. Lastly, just by being available, talking to, and listening to your loved one or roommate in itself is very helpful.
– Haidyn Emmerich
Nourish Your Mind Blog Contributor