The Northwest Pennsylvania (NW PA) Veteran Suicide Prevention Program operates on a three-pronged approach involving healthcare providers, community organizations, and Veterans and their families in the 15 counties of NW PA. For many people, the holiday season is a time of joy and celebration. However, for those living with depression, it can be an especially difficult and challenging time. If you are supporting a loved one who is struggling with their depression during the holidays, you may not know how to help. In this blog post, courtesy of Families for Depression Awareness, we share ways you can care for your loved one throughout the holidays.
If you have any questions or would like to speak with someone about publicizing the NW PA Veteran Suicide Prevention Program in your community, please reach out to us.
Read time: 3 minutes
Written by Arielle Cohen, LCSW, Programs Manager at Families for Depression Awareness.
Encourage Self-Care for Depression During the Holidays
One of the most important things you can do for your loved one is to encourage them in their self-care. Depression often impacts people’s ability and motivation to take care of themselves. The stresses of the holidays can make this even harder. Encourage your loved one to take time for themselves and engage in activities that they enjoy. This could be something as simple as taking a walk, reading a book, or watching their favorite movie.
Support Them in Social Situations
During the holidays, social events and gatherings are frequent and festive. But isolation is a key sign of depression. In fact, for someone with depression, these situations can be exhausting, overwhelming, and even anxiety-inducing. If your loved one is struggling with social situations, offer to accompany them to events or suggest smaller gatherings with close friends or family.
Let your loved one know that they are not alone and that you are there to support them. Encourage your loved one to talk with you if they need a break during a social event. Offer to go for a walk, sit in a quiet room, or leave if need be. Consider using a codeword your loved one can say if they need your help, but want to be discreet in front of others. It is okay for your loved one to set limits, so they may be able to decline some invitations or leave early if their health demands it.
Be a Good Listener
Sometimes, the best thing you can do for your loved one is simply to listen. Depression can make people feel isolated and alone. Having someone to talk to can make a world of difference! Let your loved one know that you are there to listen and support them. Avoid giving advice and don’t be judgmental. Instead, focus on being present and attentive.
Discuss Plans Ahead of Time to Manage Depression During the Holidays
Talk to your loved one about their expectations and concerns before holiday events and gatherings. This can help avoid any surprises or triggers that could worsen their depression. Additionally, consider making plans for self-care activities after the event to help your loved one decompress and recharge. Remember, communication is key in supporting your loved one during the holidays.
Although you can’t fix your loved one’s depression, you can offer support and love. Take care of yourself, too, as it can be emotionally taxing to support someone with depression. If you’re struggling to provide the support your loved one needs, consider seeking the help of a mental health professional. Together, you can help your loved one navigate the challenges of depression during the holidays and beyond.
Looking to Get Involved?
Whether you identify as a healthcare provider, community organization, or Veteran, there are several opportunities through the NW PA Veteran Suicide Prevention Program and PERU to connect to resources, participate in educational training, and promote harm reduction strategies. We are actively recruiting healthcare and community partners to work with us in meeting our goals and objectives. To learn more, visit the program website at theresilientveteran.org.
Need Help? Know Someone Who Does? Contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 or use the online Lifeline Crisis Chat. Both are free and confidential. You’ll be connected to a skilled, trained counselor in your area.