First Person Perspective

Care for the Caregiver: How to Care for Yourself While Caring for Someone with Depression

Depression (or major depressive disorder) can have a huge impact not only on the person experiencing it, but also on a parent, partner, or other family member helping care for their loved one. Supporting a person with depression can be challenging, but it can have a life-changing impact on your loved one. Here are some tips for taking care of yourself along the way. 

Learn About Depression

Being educated on depression and its causes is a vital part of understanding what your loved one is going through.

“Depression is multifactorial,” says Usha Bachani, MD, Psychiatrist for The LifeLaunch, Sheppard Pratt’s residential program for teens with mental health conditions. “When a young person is experiencing depression, some parents think it’s their fault.”

Instead of blaming yourself, which leads to guilt, parents or loved ones should learn about the causes of depression and how various factors contribute to it. Education can also help inform family members of what to anticipate as their loved one is struggling with symptoms.

“It’s very important for the caregiver to know the needs of the person they’re caring for,” Dr. Bachani says. “Education for the caregiver can inform their expectations.” 

Practice Self-Care

While education can help caregivers become more knowledgeable about their loved one’s condition, it’s also important to remember that there is only so much you can do to care for them.

“We often reference the airline instructions that say to put your oxygen mask on first before you help the person next to you as a good metaphor,” says Samantha Salerno, LCSW-C, a Social Worker in the Crisis Stabilization Unit at Sheppard Pratt.

“Recognize your limits,” Salerno says. “How much time are you spending supporting and caring for your loved one struggling with depression, and how much time are you caring for yourself?” 

It’s a good idea to carve time out of each day for yourself to reduce stress as you support your loved one. Self-care might include physical exercise, spending time with other family members or friends, or doing other activities that you enjoy. Try to remember that you need to tend to your own physical and mental health needs in order to be helpful to someone else.

Seek Community Support

It can also be helpful for caregivers to talk to others experiencing similar situations with family members and to build themselves a community of support.

“Seeking support for themselves can help caregivers build emotional resiliency,” Salerno says. “Developing supportive relationships can be therapeutic in a lot of ways.” 

To find support groups available at Sheppard Pratt locations, click here.