How to Help Someone Dealing with Depression
When a spouse, friend or family member go through depression, they will need your support. With your help, the people you care about can overcome this dark time to rediscover their optimism and enthusiasm for things they lost interest in. These guidelines provide useful advice on how to help someone who is dealing with depression.
Before helping someone with depression, it’s important to understand the following.
It’s not personal: Depressed people are also prone to lashing out in anger and have difficulty connecting on an emotional level. During these times, remember that it is not personal, and don’t treat it as such.
It’s not your job to ‘fix’ them: While you play an important role in their recovery, it’s not your job to shoulder their depression and fix it. That responsibility lies solely with the person going through the depression and no one else’s. Play a supporting role, but know that there are limits to what you can do.
Don’t underestimate depression: It’s tempting to think that someone with depression can ‘snap out of it’ through willpower. It’s just as tempting to pretend the depression does not exist by making excuses on behalf of the person. But depression is a severe mental health condition – no one can stop it with their willpower alone and trying to cover it up only delays treatment. If you know someone who is dealing with depression, you need to act immediately.
Recognising when someone is dealing with depression
How do you recognise the symptoms of depression? Here are some of the signs that your loved one is dealing with depression.
They drink and excessively take drugs: Someone who is drinking a lot more than usual and taking subscription drugs like painkillers might be trying to handle their depression.
They don’t seem to care about anything: He or she has lost interest in activities they used to enjoy and doesn’t want to associate with friends and family anymore.
They complain about aches and pains: They feel tired and drained all the time, complains about headaches, back pains and stomach problems.
They show significant changes in eating habits: They eat more or less than usual, leading to significant changes in weight.
They experience changes in sleeping patterns: They are struggling to sleep or are sleeping too much.
They have a negative opinion on life: Depression drains optimism out of people so they will express a bleak outlook on everything.
If someone you know is expressing one or more of these symptoms, then they are suffering from depression, and you need to reach out to them.
How to talk to someone dealing with depression
Talking to someone with depression can be tough because we don’t know the right words to say. However, you don’t have to say much. Remember, your job is not to fix the depression, your job is to support them and being a good listener is the best way to show support.
Talking to a loved one is the best ways to deal with depression. Thus, you only need to say encouraging words like, “I have been feeling concerned about you lately.” “How can I best support you right now?” or “You are not alone in this. I’m here for you.” and listen to what they have to say.
What you do not say are words that cause the person to shut down. Saying words that demonstrate apathy or dismiss the serious nature of their condition will cause them to shut down. Phrases like this include sentiments like, “It’s all in your head”, “What’s wrong with you?” and “You have so much to live for, why do you want to die?”
Support during their treatment
You can’t force someone to seek treatment, but you can encourage them to do so. Seeking treatment is a daunting task for anyone dealing with depression, but with your support treatment will not be as intimidating. Encourage them to visit a doctor as visiting a GP would be an excellent first step as they would be able to tell if the person in focus is facing depression or a physical ailment.
Someone dealing with depression will have to write a list of symptoms before meeting their doctor – you can help them write the list by sharing your observations. You can also help your loved one find the right professional and set up an appointment on their behalf because the search for a psychologist can be very difficult for someone dealing with depression. Sometimes, the person dealing with depression will need to compile a list of positive qualities as part of the treatment process, you can help them write the list (especially if they have a hard time being positive).
Treatment for depression takes time, and so you must be supportive and patient by having realistic expectations. Sometimes, progress can be slow or even stalled in some cases, it’s important to be patient because treatment for depression takes time.
Beyond treatment, you can provide support in several ways. Encourage them to go out for fun activities, exercise together, and help them out with small tasks.
Helping someone with depression is not easy and can be emotionally draining. However, your support is instrumental in your loved one’s recovery. Acting as a confidante and being supportive are the best ways you can help someone deal with their depression. It can be draining, but with the right support, and an inordinate amount of patience, you can help someone through their depression.
For more information on depression and how to deal with it, visit onPsych.