In its mildest form, depression can simply mean feeling low. For most people, feeling sad from time to time is just a natural part of life. However, for some of us, feelings of sadness, despair and melancholia are present on a daily basis and can prevent us from living our normal lives. If you can relate to this, it could mean you are suffering from depression and should seek help from a GP or therapist. It is nothing to be ashamed of, 1 in 4 of us will experience a mental health issue in our lifetime, and depression is one of the most common illnesses.
However, despite this fact, the stigma that still surrounds mental health can often hinder people’s understanding of depression; some may feel awkward towards, or unable to help those who are experiencing it.
Here, I am going to list 5 ways in which you can help someone who may be suffering from depression.
Remember that not everybody will feel comfortable asking for help, but there are some signs you can look out for, including (but not limited to): avoidance of social events/loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy, loss of self-confidence or self-esteem, unexplained anger/irritability, reckless behaviour and changes in their appetite/weight.
Compassion really is key in helping someone to recover from any illness. Whether it is encouraging them to do something that might help them cope with their illness, like seeking out appropriate treatment, or offering to do something they are struggling with – even if it is just washing up the dishes!
You could encourage them gently to talk about their feelings or make them aware that you totally understand if they don’t want to open up just yet. Reassure them that their situation is going to get better and let them know you are there to support them no matter what.
They are going through a really difficult time, and their behaviour may seem erratic and unpredictable – it’s likely they’ll behave in ways which seem out of character to you. For example, they may be acting more irritable or reckless, and this kind of behaviour is liable to be misunderstood by others who do not know what is really going on. It is not always easy when dealing with the negativity, hostility, and moodiness that go hand in hand with depression, but understand that they don’t necessarily mean what they are saying/doing in their current state of mind.
Therefore, it’s important you don’t take it personally or blame them; try reassuring them instead. If they are displaying unusual, impulsive behaviours, try not to judge them but do try your best to ensure their safety. Perhaps, when they are in a calmer state, it might be a good idea to help them in coming up with alternative and healthier strategies to deal with these impulses.
3. But, don’t become a psychologist…
…and start diagnosing them or trying to give advice beyond your knowledge – that is best left to the professionals. Just listen to them, believe everything they tell you and let them know you’ll love and support them every step of the way. Don’t force treatment on them, but remember to seek further help immediately if they’re feeling suicidal or showing no willingness to get better; if you feel there is a risk of immediate danger – tell a trusted adult or call 999.
You can always contact Ditch the Label or other charities like Samaritans or Mind if you feel you need guidance on this matter. Supporting someone with depression can be stressful and frustrating so be careful not to neglect your own needs too. Taking time to look after yourself is really important; talk to others about how you’re feeling or consider joining a local support group with people who are also in a similar situation to you.
4. Have patience
Recovering from depression can take a long time and it is important that everyone goes at their own pace; this illness, for many, is an ongoing battle throughout their lifetime and they’ll have to gradually learn how to manage, so be prepared for relapses. It is important to remember that even if they’ve started treatment, it may be a long time before they really start to feel better. Therefore, having patience is really important.
What they really need at this point, is your genuine love and support. Show them how much you care by listening to them and appreciating them for who they are. They may feel like they’ve got no one on their side during this process, so it’s really important that you are!
5. Spend time with them
Someone with depression will have both good and bad days. They might show less interest in the things they used to enjoy, and might not always feel like going out – but if they do feel up to hanging out with you, then try and spend time with them by doing things you both used to enjoy. Keeping them occupied and offering them distractions where you can is really important, but make sure these are either within, or close to their comfort zone.
Equally, remember that sometimes they’ll just want to be left alone and that’s okay too. Just check in with them regularly by dropping them a message to let them know you’re there for them when/ if they need you.
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