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How to support someone with depression virtually

How to support someone with depression virtually

5/4/2021 11:35:00 AM

How to support someone with depression virtually

Since we're all online more, there are more ways for us to help one

, such as lethargy, feeling worthless, trouble sleeping or oversleeping, for at least two weeks.It's important to note that while people can experience sadness or grief from events like the death of a loved one or losing a job,sadness and grief aren't the same as depression

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. However, virtual support can help a loved one in these situations, too.It can be a challenge to recognize depression in a loved one when you're not seeing them in person regularly."I do think there are limitations on what you can see virtually," says Landau, who says the primary symptom of depression in adults is sadness, but in teens, it can be irritability. But there are things you can do, she adds:"In addition to your friend’s self-report, you can notice or inquire about positive changes in self-care, sleep, eating, and other symptoms of depression. You can notice whether your friend is less physically anxious or agitated or lethargic and slowed down."

Seek mental health resources togetherWhen it comes to depression, sometimes the hardest step is the initial one. For some people, that may mean researching therapists or outpatient programs to treat depression.Your friend might want to find professional help but their drive to do so might be missing because depression can zap people's energy, says Natalie Dattilo, director of psychology at Brigham and Women's Hospital. If your friend asks you to help or they're open to the idea, hop on the phone or FaceTime and google mental health resources together.

"As a friend, a partner, or a loved one, you could maybe make that first step with them... that they might be reluctant to do," says Dattilo. You can also offer to take this first step by yourself if they don't feel up to it, but make sure they agree, and never go behind someone's back and do it, because it can feel like a breach of trust, says Landau.

Dattilo has looked up resources for her patients when they want to explore extra help beyond what Dattilo provides. But if a loved one doesn't want your assistance or is resistant to seeking professional help, don't push it.Reluctance is common, says Landau, because seeking psychological help is still seen as shameful or weak.

"A person has every right to not pursue mental health treatment if they don't want to or don't feel ready to. Sometimes giving our loved one the time and space they need can be the most helpful and loving thing to do," says Dattilo.Landau recommends the website Psychology Today as a resource for searching for

. It also has search options for psychiatrists, treatment centers, and support groups. You also might want offer to help look through your friend's provider network to make sure the therapist is covered by their insurance.Send care packages and virtual reminders of your love

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Care packages can be an effective way to remind your loved ones you're thinking of them and that they're important to you.Even if your primary mode of communication is texts or video calls, you can send letters, self-care kits, baked treats, photos of good times you've shared, or funny objects or cards that align with the person's sense of humor. If your friend is open to it, you can also talk about what you sent during phone calls or texts — it's a conversation starter, and it might help them feel good.

You can also show your love virtually. Send e-cards, create a playlist of your favorite songs, compile a slideshow of mutual fun memories,watch a movie together online from afar, or make some popcorn and video chat together, suggests Dattilo.These actions can all help remind your loved one they matter, especially when their depression sends them messages like"I'm worthless."

"[A care package] is a way to connect and offer support from a distance, which may be more tolerable and more easily accepted than the pressure to socialize in person (or virtual)," says Dattilo.Hang out with mutual friendsSocialization can drain someone with depression, but it can also uplift them.

If your friend is up for it, try to get them to attend a virtual hangout with you and mutual friends or family members, if that applies. Thevideo chat app Houseparty, for instance, offers fun games, like trivia and Heads Up, or you could go with a standard Zoom or FaceTime.

Don't make these sessions about your friend's depression or even say that's why you're getting together, recommends Dattilo, who adds that if you wouldn't rally a bunch of friends together for a Zoom call for the sole purpose of supporting a mutual friend with diabetes, then treat a depressed friend the same.

"It could have the potential to alienate the person or draw more attention to [their depression] than they would want," she says. Instead, hang out because it's fun, and because you care about your friend.Take care of yourself, tooYou might have heard of the saying"you can't pour from an empty cup." If you're giving your all to your loved one with depression, you can't take care of them or yourself.

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