Do you have a friend or family member who is living with depression? Stay strong. You’re not alone in this.
Worldwide, over 300 million adults and children live with depression. This is according to the most recent estimates from the United States National Institute of Mental Health.
Although this number is scary, depression is manageable however, people should be more careful because persons affected experience depression in the different ways, and symptoms vary.
So, if your loved one is experiencing depression, he or she may express one or more of the following symptoms;
1- Seem sad or tearful.
2- Appear more pessimistic than usual or hopeless about the future.
3- Talk a lot about feeling guilty, empty, or worthless.
4- Seem less interested in spending time together or communicate less frequently than they normally would.
5- Get upset easily or are unusually irritable.
6- Have less energy, move slowly, or seem generally restless.
7- Have trouble sleeping or sleep much more than usual.
8- Seem forgetful or have trouble concentrating or deciding on things.
9- Eat more or less than usual.
10- Talk about death or suicide…
The list gets longer by the day but the above are clinically proven major symptoms of depression.
Although it looks gloomy, the mainstay of treatment is usually medication, talk therapy or a combination of the two. Increasingly, research suggests that these treatments may normalise brain changes associated with depression. The good news is, they can get better.
So, we’ll go over some things you can do to help as well as a few things to avoid when managing someone with depression.
Listen to them:
Let your friend know you’re there for them. You can start the conversation by sharing your concerns and asking specific question like “What’s on your mind?”
Please keep in mind that your friend may want to talk about what they feel, but they might not want advice.
Help them find support:
After listening to them don’t ever think that you can manage the situation yourself. You may need an expert’s input as your friend may not be aware they’re dealing with depression, or they may be unsure how to reach out for support.
If your friend seems interested in counseling, offer to help them review potential therapists. This might be the biggest miracle they need at that moment.
Support them in continuing therapy:
On a bad day, your friend might not feel like leaving the house as depression can reduce energy levels to zero and increase the desire to self-isolate.
If you sense that they want to cancel their visit to the therapy session or they say so expressly, encourage them to stick with it. Please don’t push as they might see you as antagonistic.
The same goes for medication. If your friend wants to stop taking medication because of the unpleasant side effects, let them know you understand but encourage them to talk to their psychiatrist about switching to a different antidepressant first.
It has been clinically proven that abruptly stopping antidepressants without the supervision of a healthcare provider can have serious consequences.
Take care of yourself:
It can be draining. When you care about someone who’s living with depression, it’s tempting to drop everything to be by their side and support them and sometimes, them not seeing things from your point of view almost all the time can sap energy and can become frustrating. It’s not wrong to want to help a friend, but it’s also important to take care of your own needs. They need you to survive.
Offer to help with tasks:
With depression, some tasks can feel overwhelming. Things like laundry, grocery shopping, or paying bills can begin to pile up, making it hard to know where to start. This is where your loved one may appreciate an offer of help, but they also might not be able to clearly say what they need help with. So visit and with their consent, help.
Extend loose invitations:
People living with depression may have a hard time reaching out to friends, making or keeping plans. A pattern of canceled plans may lead to fewer invitations, which can increase isolation because these constant canceling of plans can contribute to guilt.
You can help reassure your friend by continuing to extend invitations to activities, even if you know they’re unlikely to accept.
Depression usually improves with treatment, but it can be a slow process that involves some trial and error. They may have to try a few different counseling approaches or medications before they find one that helps their symptoms.
Even successful treatment doesn’t always mean depression goes away entirely. Your friend may continue to have symptoms from time to time.
Stay in touch:
Letting your friend know you still care about them as they continue to work through depression can help. Even if you aren’t able to spend a lot of time with them on a regular basis, check-in regularly with a text, phone call, or quick visit.
People living with depression may become more withdrawn and avoid reaching out, so you may find yourself doing more work to maintain the friendship. But continuing to be a positive, supportive presence in your friend’s life may make all the difference to them, even if they can’t express that to you at the moment.
With a little more understanding, we can all help make the world a less depressive place.
Do you have any question or comment? Please share your story with us in the comment section.