Mental health has been at the forefront of conversations recently—it seems to be on the rise, especially in the younger generations. One of the most common mental health issues is depression. However it can be just as challenging having to see a close friend or family member suffer, than it is being the one coping with the condition. Dear Doctor provides provides you with a guide to show you how to help a loved one with depression.
Read the signs
One of the first and most important steps in this process is identifying the problem. It isn’t uncommon for depression to go undiagnosed for long periods of time, which can unfortunately mean it escalates. The individual suffering may not actually be aware themselves that they are depressed, and therefore cannot openly ask for help. Similarly some people don’t wish to be a burden on those they love, so attempt to conceal their feelings of anguish.
There are lots of possible symptoms of depression but these are some common ones to look out for:
- Feelings of being down or hopeless
- Lack of energy, appears lethargic
- Loss of interest in hobbies or other everyday activities they would usually enjoy
- Being isolated, avoiding seeing people
- Either overeating or loss of appetite
- Oversleeping or unable to sleep
- Lack of concentration
- Angry outbursts
- Self harming
- Crying a lot more than usual
In elderly adults, signs of depression can also be caused by feelings of loneliness. Some signals that an elderly acquaintance may be suffering from depression include:
- Poor diet
- Neglected appearance
- Lack of motivation (possibly indicated by empty fridge or empty cupboards)
- Shows little joy in receiving visitors
See also: Winter Wellbeing: Seasonal Affective Disorder
With mental health conditions like depression, there is no simple solution. Unfortunately there is no switch to suddenly make somebody feel better. It takes a change in attitude and outlook, which can take time. Showing your understanding and patience is vital in helping your companion to overcome their depression. Let them know you are there to listen to their problems, offer to talk more frequently. When helping a loved one with depression it’s also important to show that you accept them as they are, with no judgment attached. Many who are depressed feel isolated or alone so offering to share an activity together is a great way to get them up and about. Encourage them to do some exercise or to both try a new class together. Exercise is particularly effective as it releases endorphins and is goal oriented.
Suggest professional help
While your support will make a world of difference, it may be the case that your companion needs some expert advice. Another way to help a loved one is to suggest the various charities and forums specifically designed for depression. These create a safe space for depression sufferers to share their experiences without being judged. Likewise a visit to the doctor may result in some therapy sessions being organised, to really dig at the root of the problem. Try some of the following sources:
- Depression Alliance—a charity designed for helping people to cope with depression
- Healthtalk.org—a forum for people do discuss their experiences and share their methods overcoming depression
- Sane—a website and helpline for supporting sufferers
- Depression UK—members have the opportunity to make a pen friend, if forums aren’t your thing
- Big White Wall—a forum for people with various mental health issues
When to get urgent help
If you are seriously concerned for your acquaintance’s well being; they are showing signs of harm or suicidal tendencies, you need to take action. If this is the case contact your local doctor or NHS on 111. You can even try calling the Samaritans confidential helpline, which provides 24-hour support.
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See also: Boost Your Mental Health