Supporting a girlfriend with depression can be hard. This blog explores some ways you can offer effective support as well as some things to avoid.
Depression is a mental health illness whereby someone persistently feels low or loses interest in activities they usually enjoy for a prolonged length of time. While it is normal to feel sad sometimes, if these feelings last a long time or significantly interfere with a person's daily life, they may be experiencing depression.
There are several different types of depression, including:
Depression can manifest very differently from one person to another. For this reason, it can be difficult to generalize about signs and symptoms. People with depression may experience many of the following symptoms or just a few.
If your girlfriend is living with depression, it is natural to want to offer support. However, sometimes well-intended actions can do more harm than good, especially if you do not fully understand the mental illness.
One of the most important steps to offering effective support to your depressed girlfriend is to learn about the condition and understand what it is like to experience depression. The National Institute of Mental Health has lots of helpful information about depression, its causes, and treatment. You could also talk to your doctor or another healthcare professional.
In addition to educating yourself about depression, there are some other things you can do to help your girlfriend. Here are four valuable tips to take advantage of.
If your girlfriend is clinically depressed, it is important to understand her experience. Make sure you validate her feelings and show that you appreciate the challenges she is facing.
Try to avoid saying things like "you'll feel better tomorrow" or "this is just a down day." While it is normal to want to make your girlfriend feel better, these comments can trivialize her experience and may show her that you do not recognize the reality of the condition.
It may be tempting to try and offer your girlfriend advice, but the best thing you can do is listen. Ask her open-ended questions and give her the space to talk. Listen to what she has to say without judgment so that she feels comfortable sharing her feelings with you.
While you cannot solve or fix your girlfriend's depression, small acts of love can help your girlfriend feel supported and cared for. Little things like planning a movie night together, making her breakfast, or buying her flowers will help her realize that you are there for her.
As depression is a common mental health condition, lots of help and support are available. However, the majority of people living with depression do not access treatment. Loss of motivation or feelings of shame about their condition can act as barriers to seeking help, as can a lack of information about services available.
One of the most helpful things you can do for your girlfriend is to encourage her to access professional support. You could talk her through the options available, help her find treatment services, or accompany her to appointments. Ultimately, the decision to seek help has to come from your girlfriend. However, having open conversations about the topic can make the process easier.
As well as professional services, you could also explore self-organized support groups where your girlfriend can speak with others who have a similar experience of depression. Peer support groups can offer great advice and help her realize she is not alone in her struggles.
Supporting someone with depression can be draining, so it is important to look after yourself as well. Do not be afraid to ask for extra help - many people supporting partners with depression seek professional support themselves. You can also focus on good self-care practices to help you maintain mental and physical well-being.
To practice good self-care, try to:
Sometimes, people living with depression can have suicidal thoughts, ideations, or make suicide attempts. Suicide should always be taken seriously - you should seek immediate help if you think your girlfriend may be at risk of attempting suicide.
You can call 911 for emergency medical support or contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
Some warning signs of suicide include:
If your girlfriend is depressed, having an open conversation about her mental health is usually one of the best forms of support. However, there are some things you should be careful to avoid.
Instead, listen carefully to what she says and respond without judgment. Validate her feelings and let her know you love her and care about her.
While seeing your girlfriend cry or go through a tough time may be heartbreaking, it can be hard to know how to help. Here are a few tips on how to best comfort her:
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If you or someone you know is looking for mental wellness treatment, we’re here to help. Contact us today to make the change.
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