How to Help Someone With Depression
Globally, there are 300 million children and adults living with depression. To put that into perspective, that’s almost the same amount of people living in the US. Prior to helping your depressed friend, it is important to identify the signs and symptoms they may be showing. These include
- Seeming sad or tearful
- Appear more pessimistic than usual or hopeless about the future
- Talk about feeling guilty, empty, or worthless
- Seem less interested in spending time together or communicate less frequently than they normally would
- Get upset easily or are unusually irritable
- Have less energy, move slowly, or seem generally listless
- Have less interest in their appearance than usual or neglect basic hygiene, such as showering and brushing their teeth
- Trouble sleeping or sleep much more than usual
- Care less about their usual activities and interests
- Seem forgetful or have trouble concentrating or deciding on things
- Eat more or less than usual
- Talk about death or suicide
This article will give you an insight into the dos and don’ts when helping a loved one with depression. Please also keep in mind that just because someone does not display those symptoms above, it does not mean they do not have depression. Always keep in touch with those around you as you may not know what they are enduring or feeling.
It is important to let your friend know that you’re there for them. You could initiate the conversation by saying “It seems like you’ve been having a hard time lately. What’s on your mind?”. Always keep in mind that just because your friend tells you what is wrong, they may not always want advice, they may just like to talk. Active listening is key so try these techniques:
- Ask questions to get more information instead of assuming you understand what they mean.
- Validate their feelings. You might say, “That sounds really difficult. I’m sorry to hear that.”
- Show empathy and interest with your body language
It is important to also understand that your friend may also not want to open up and tell you. Try to keep asking open ended questions without being pushy and expression your concern.
Help Them Find Support
Your friend may even not know their suffering with depression and could be unsure on how to reach out for support. I suggest encouraging and supporting them to make that first appointment. Furthermore, you can help them review therapists and help them compile a list they want mentioned in their first session.
Support them in continuing therapy
On a bad day your friend might not feel like leaving the house. Depression can deplete a sufferers energy and make them want to self isolate. It is important to encourage your friend to continue with their therapy and if their medicated, to continue with their medication. Sentences like “Last week you said your session was really productive and you felt a lot better afterward. What if today’s session helps, too?” are a great way to start. You may also encourage them to speak to their psychiatrist about changing medication or easing off the medication if it is giving your friend some unpleasant side effects.
Take Care of Yourself
When a loved one has depression, it is tempting to drop everything to be by their side. It is important to realise that although this is admirable, you may feel exhausted and thus in the long term not be able to be as present as you want to for your friend. It is important to set boundaries such as letting them know you’re available after work and practice self care.
It is important to read about depression and the symptoms, causes, diagnostic criteria, and treatments on your own. Being familiar with general symptoms and signs will be able to enable a deeper conversation with your friend.
Offer help with everyday tasks
Day-to-day tasks can seem overwhelming with someone who suffers from depression. Your friend may appreciate an offer to help but may not be able to explicitly state what they need help with. It would be helpful to ask them what they need help with the most today rather than tell them that if they need anything they can let you know. It is important to pay attention to details, for example, if you notice that their refrigerator is empty, ask them if they’d like to go grocery shopping with you or if they’d like you to pick up some groceries. Maybe even suggest cooking and eating dinner with them.
Extend loose invitations
People who suffer from depression have a hard time keeping plans. Cancelling these plans may also contribute to the guilt. After cancelling plans or not reaching out, over time less and less people will invite them to functions, gatherings or even coffee. This isolation can worsen depression as they feel unloved, or that they’ve pushed people away. When having a function, party or even get-together, it is important when speaking to your friend with depression to make it known to them that you understand that they may keep these plans when they are in a rough patch and that there is no pressure to hang out until they’re ready.
Depression isn’t something that goes away overnight. At times, people will have to try a few counselling approaches or medication before they find what works for them. It is important to understand that just because your friend is feeling better for a few days consecutively, this does not mean that they are cured or that their depression has left them. It is also important not to become restless, frustrated or impatient when your friend has several bad days
Stay in touch
It is important to constantly tell your friend that you are there for them. As people living with depression can become withdrawn, it can feel at times that you are the one maintaining the friendship. It is so important to be a positive force on your friend’s life.
Know the different forms depression can take
When we think of depression we think of someone who is sad or is in a low mood. Although depression can absolutely take on this form here are some other forms to look out for:
- anger and irritability
- confusion, memory problems, or difficulty focusing
- excessive fatigue or sleep issues
- physical symptoms such as stomach distress, frequent headaches, or back and other muscle pain
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