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How to support someone with anxiety or depression

caring for someone with anxiety depression

When you sense a change in a friend or loved one’s behaviour it can be hard to determine the cause. Sometimes we get so caught up in our busy daily routine that we forget to check in with the people we care about to see if they’re doing okay.

Counsellor Lisa Bondarenko says we’re generally good at providing immediate support after a recent death, relationship breakdown, health issue or redundancy; but are often unaware depression and anxiety can surface many months or even years after a stressful event.

“Society has created a constructed image of how depression and anxiety look, but there is simply no one-size-fits-all when it comes to symptoms for these conditions and when they occur,” Lisa says.

“While out of character behaviours including actions, decisions and choices that don’t align with a person’s normal personality can often be an indicator something is wrong, very often there are no stereotypical warning signs.”

“One of the most common things facing family and friends when it comes to supporting their loved ones suffering depression or anxiety is a fear of not knowing what it means and what they can do to help,” Lisa says.

“As a support person, you shouldn’t be afraid to have an open conversation with someone you are worried about. The worst thing you can do is ignore them and hope they get better,” she says.

Avoid saying:

  • It’s all in your head
  • Snap out of it / get over it
  • Look on the bright side
  • Be grateful for what you have
  • Focus on the positives

Instead say:

  • You’re not alone, it’s a common experience
  • I might not understand but I’m here for you
  • Let’s do something about it
  • What do you need from me?
  • Don’t be embarrassed

“It’s important you encourage your friend or family member in the first instance to make an appointment to see their GP and create a support network around them by engaging others.”

“It’s necessary for a support person to set their own boundaries and continue to have fun living their own life,” Lisa says. Take time for yourself and reach out to others to create a bigger support network, so you’re not carrying it all on your own.

“Looking after someone battling mental health can be equally as challenging as providing care to a loved one that requires physical help, support and assistance in daily living. Never underestimate the emotional strain this can have and make sure you are equally cared for.”

how to care for someone with anxiety depression

Common signs of anxiety and depression

  • Doesn’t seem to care or has lost interest in life
  • Expresses a bleak or negative attitude
  • Frequently complains about feeling unwell
  • Suffering insomnia or sleeping too much
  • Significant changes to eating patterns
  • Increase use of alcohol or addictive substances

If you or anyone you know needs support, contact:

  • Lifeline on 13 11 14 or the Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467 for 24-hour Australian counselling services
  • beyondblue 1300 224 636 for 24-hour phone support, online chat, resources and apps
  • Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800 for free confidential 24-hour counselling for young people aged five to 18

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