It can be hard to watch someone that you care about struggling with their mental health, especially when you are not sure how you can help them. We have put together some tips for how to help a loved one struggling with depression, anxiety, or addiction, in hopes of helping you to become a better ally for them.
For a loved one with depression
Ask how they are doing often. This might seem as if it is a given, but make an effort to see how they are doing even when they do not seem outwardly depressed. This shows that you care about how they are feeling and can provide an opportunity for them to open up if there is something they need to discuss.
Avoid any statements that may seem as if they are downsizing their depression. Saying things like “this is just all in your head,” or “you need to snap out of this” can minimize their feelings, which in turn can make them feel worse, or even cease to communicate how they are doing. Just remember that you are not going to be able to fully understand what your loved one is going through, so be unbiased in your discussions with them.
Ask what you can do to support them. This creates space for your loved one to reflect on what could best assist them in the current moment, along with helping to guide you on how you can be an ally for them.
Help out whenever you are able to. When your loved one is depressed, day-to-day activities can seem like a daunting task. Having someone beside them to help with whatever is at hand can be a great motivator and opportunity for them to feel more involved.
Lastly, reading up on what depression is and how it affects people can be a huge support for your loved one. This will help you to find a better sense of understanding for your loved one, which can make a world of difference.
For a loved one with anxiety or panic attacks
Be calm when they are talking about their anxieties or concerns. Although their fears or worries may seem irrational to you, they are rational to your loved one who is experiencing them. Do not diminish their anxieties, but instead be open to listening without passing judgement.
Research some grounding techniques. Grounding techniques are different ways that people can help center or “ground” themselves. There are many exercises available, but one common grounding technique is the 54321 Exercise.
When someone is having a panic attack, have them focus on their senses instead to help pull them out of their thoughts for a moment. Guide them through naming 5 things they can see around them, 4 things they can feel (ex. A soft breeze in my hair, the necklace around my neck), 3 things they can hear, 2 things they can smell, and end the exercise with naming 1 thing that you can taste. By the end of the exercise, your loved one may feel more relaxed and calm. You can repeat this exercise as many times as is necessary.