Seeing a loved one isolate and retreat inwardly can be difficult to bear.
Whether you are a parent, sibling, spouse, or friend, you may have trouble understanding how things got this bad. Before, your loved one was full of energy and life. They had so many passions, interests, and just glowed. Now it seems as if they are a completely different person.
There are many reasons why someone develops depression. Isolation allows them to create distance from the activities and people that cause them emotional pain, sadness, or irritability.
If you have a loved one who is depressed and isolating themself, here are some ways you can help.
Encourage, But Don’t Force, Participation
To counteract isolation, do what you can to encourage participation, but do so within reason. Forcing someone to do something they don’t want to do isn’t helpful. Nor will “guilt-tripping” them into action help.
Just inviting them to an activity is useful. For instance, your loved one liked to go fishing. Bring your fishing gear with you, and ask them if they want to go to the lake with you to fish. They may turn the offer down. But don’t just ask once, keep showing up asking them to go out with you. The consistency does matter, even if they don’t join you, and over time can help.
Keep Calling and Texting
Keeping that consistency theme in mind, continue calling and texting them as well. If they call or text back, maintain a dialogue. However, if they don’t, keep it up from your end.
Granted, you don’t want to overwhelm them with texts or voicemails. Yet, a simple, well-worded text such as “I’m here for you,” or “I care about you,” can go a long way. Don’t get discouraged if they are not responding. Remember that you are fighting through layers of depression that can be difficult to overcome. It’s important that they know you care enough to think about and check on them.
Stay Vigilant and Observant
Another thing you can do is stay vigilant and observant about signs of trouble. So when you go over to visit, take note of their living area. It might be disheveled (and that’s okay!), but is it unsafe? The same goes for communication and social media posts. Are they saying or writing content that is troubling? Do you think that they are using or abusing substances?
If there is anything at all that you find upsetting or questionable, talk to someone about it. You may even want to call your local police department to do a welfare check. Or you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. This is not “tattling” or sticking your nose into their business; it’s a way to show concern and keep your loved one safe.
Consider Suggesting Professional Help for Depression
Ultimately, the issues surrounding depression and isolation are complicated. Your loved one may be dealing with an unresolved trauma from the past that is appearing as PTSD. Or they may feel hopeless, alone, and not understood at all.
It can seem that, despite your best efforts, you’re not helping at all. The truth is that you are, but you simply can’t solve someone else’s problem.
Professional help through counseling and therapy is crucial for breaking this deadlock. Of course, your loved one may resist, and it may be difficult to reason with them. That doesn’t mean you should give up. Doing research on how to approach the topic is a good first step to help you succeed when talking to them.
Also, don’t overlook the fact that although it’s easy to know that your loved one needs therapy, you too could benefit from it. Seeing your loved one struggle so much and not feeling like you can do anything about it hurts. That’s why it can be helpful for you to also participate in therapy.
Nobody wants to see their loved ones suffer. Instead, we want to be able to jump right in to “fix” the problem and make everything better. But that’s usually not the best approach.
Following the tips mentioned will allow you to help in a sensible way. However, to make permanent change and resolve these issues, your loved one will likely need to see a therapist. Yet, that doesn’t mean you have to step aside. Far from it! Continue supporting your loved one the best you can, and encourage them to seek out depression therapy.