Depression is a mental illness that can be just as debilitating for sufferers as any physical ailment - but with a lack of physical symptoms, it can be tough for outsiders to spot.

Like someone suffering from any chronic illness, people suffering with depression need specialist care from medical doctors. In addition, it is also very important that they receive the right emotional support from their friends and family.

Caring for someone with a diagnosis of depression can be hard. The depressed person may find it difficult to express how they're feeling, and as their friend or loved one, you may feel shut out or unappreciated, which probably isn't the case.
 

A shoulder to lean on

The most important thing that you can do for anyone with depression is to provide a friendly ear for them to get things off their chest. Allow them to talk about how they're feeling and encourage them to take whatever steps they need to feel better, however small they may be at first.

It's crucial to do this in a caring and sympathetic way - telling someone to pull themselves together or to cheer up could feel like criticism to someone with depression, and since people suffering from the illness often have feelings of low self-worth anyway, that won't make them feel any better.
 

Making plans together

Make sure that the person you are caring for knows that you care. They might not want to spend time with other people but they'll appreciate you asking them to hang out. Make sure you show affection and appreciation for them when you do see them and reassure them that their illness doesn't make you think less of them.

Sometimes people suffering from depression can become extremely withdrawn and isolated and can also be liable to get moody or irritable more often than most people. They might misunderstand what you're trying to do or say, or feel misunderstood themselves and could act in a way that seems aggressive. Try not to react negatively to this sort of behaviour and instead be patient and provide reassurance when they need it.
 

Medical attention 

Above all, try to make sure that the person you're caring for is seeking medical attention for their illness. This goes beyond simply obtaining a diagnosis; depending on the person you're caring for, they might appreciate your support at appointments and you can make sure they attend and ensure that they are taking any medicine they have been prescribed.

Remember that someone suffering from depression is unlikely to feel better as soon as they begin treatment - it could be a long process and they'll need your support throughout it.

Finally, make sure you're taking care of yourself. Living with or in close proximity to someone with a serious mental illness like depression can be draining, so ask other friends and family members to check in on the person you're caring for, so you can share the load.

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