Helping Someone With Depression
Depression is one of the most common mental health problems, affecting 1 in 4 people within the UK alone, and it is on the rise every year. Awareness regarding depression has increased due to this, although many are still unaware of how serious the condition can be.
The Mental Health Foundation define depression as ‘a common mental health problem that causes people to experience low mood, loss of interest or pleasure, feelings of guilt or low self-worth, disturbed sleep or appetite, low energy, and poor concentration’. This definition outlines some of the possible symptoms a person may experience when suffering from depression, and they experience these due to a chemical imbalance in the brain affecting neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine. Anti-depressants (often successfully taken alongside counselling) regulate the neurotransmitters and thus reduce the symptoms. For more information or to take a depression test you can read our previous article What is Depression.
Spotting depression in a family member or a close friend is not always easy, and can often be very well hidden in cases where it has developed over a long period of time. However, that being said, that are a few tale-tell signs to watch out for. A person struggling with depression may withdraw themselves from friends and family and become very secluded, often ignoring activities or gatherings they may have once participated in. They may be highly irritable and easily aggravated, and frequently expressing negative thoughts often regarding themselves and aspects of their life that they feel is beyond their control. One of the key things to watch out for is any suicidal comments which, although they may seem to be joking at the time, can easily escalate further.
If you are concerned that a friend or member of your family are suffering from depression and you wish to talk to them about it, try to start the conversation in a way that cannot be misconstrued as an accusation. For example, starting the conversation with ‘I have noticed you have not been as talkative recently and I was wondering how you were feeling’ or ‘I just wanted to ask how you are doing, as I have noticed you are not sleeping well and I am concerned’, is a lot less direct than ‘I think you are depressed’ or ‘what is wrong with you recently?’.
If any friends or family members show signs of depression, it is important that they reach out – ideally to professionals such as their GP or a counsellor, but most importantly to their friends and family members so that they are not alone. Once they have explored getting professional help, there are a few ways in which you, too, could support them through their depression.
How you can help:
- Keep in touch. This can help them to not feel so alone, and increase self-esteem and confidence through knowing that they still have support from friendly relationships.
- Be open to talking about depression. It can be a hard topic for many to discuss, and many struggle to openly admit their feelings. A person talking about their depression may appreciate a simple ‘I am here for you’ more than ‘you need to…’ It is often better to listen rather than compare to your own experiences, as it can come across as competitive. Try to avoid saying you ‘understand’ as everybody’s journey is different and this could actually lead to feelings of hostility. Here is a good YouTube clip for further information:
Quite often, just like anybody else, a person with depression may simply need to vent to somebody they trust. This can be very therapeutic and take a weight off of their shoulders if they feel they have somebody they can talk and will help to feel less isolated.
- Ignore the myths. Everyone who suffers from depression suffers in their own way. Not everybody who has this mental health condition feels suicidal, or experiences a lack of energy – the symptoms differ per person.
- Be patient. Understand that, for many, it is often a long journey to recovery. Some people live their whole life with depression; it is often something that has built up over time and neither anti-depressants nor therapy will be an instant fix. However, over time, both treatments combined have been proven to have high success rates.
- Seek support. If you feel like this person is at risk of harming themselves or others, it is important to take advice from your local A&E or your local mental health team.
Things to try to avoid:
- Tough love. Telling your friend or family member to ‘try harder’ or to ‘toughen up’ can often make things worse and make them feel like they are not doing enough when, quite possibly, they are presently doing the best they are capable of.
- Do not assume that because a person may be secluded or negative that they do not wish to get better, or that they are not putting in the effort. More often than not, even the smallest of tasks are big accomplishments, and activities such as washing the dishes or getting out of the bed in the morning can be considered big steps.
- As hard as it can be, try to remember that their happiness is not your responsibility. Try to keep a balance and set boundaries so that you do not get so involved as to take on the depression yourself. You have to be healthy in order to help others.
- Tip-toeing. People with depression will notice if you begin to tip-toe around them. This can make people feel more alienated and could even lead to building resentment.
Perhaps what we forget most often is that at the end of the day we are all human. In our lives, we will all experience ups and downs and situations that will be beyond our control. However, with the loving support of friends, family, and loved ones, we find our own ways to navigate through the darkness – and ultimately emerge stronger than ever.
If you are experiencing depression, or even if you are supporting someone that is experiencing depression, it can be exhausting and it might be helpful to engage with a counsellor for a while. Counselling offers a safe confidential space where you are able to express whatever is going on for you, and in return, your counsellor will use their skills in order to understand how things are for you and support you safely through it.
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