Today, discussing mental health is no longer stigmatised as it was in the past. With increased awareness and easy access to information, prioritising your mental health just like you would your physical wellbeing has become normalised. While it is imperative to seek professional help to address mental health issues, it is equally important to have a strong support system to fall back on. Friends and family can be of immense help when it comes to dealing with mental health disorders of any kind. If you know a friend or a loved one who is dealing with depression, you can do your bit by helping them when possible. Although navigating helping someone with depression can be tricky. If you’re unsure how to help someone with depression, here is a guide that will set you on the right path.
What Is Depression?
Before getting into how to help someone with depression, it is important to understand what the mental health disorder entails. Firstly, it is essential to understand that while most individuals experience feelings of sadness, they are often fleeting, and pass given enough time. However, depression is a different matter altogether. A person dealing with depression experiences severe symptoms that influence how one sleeps, eats, or functions daily. It is an condition that can affect anyone, regardless of their age, sex, race, background and so on. However, these factors can alleviate or exacerbate symptoms. According to research, apart from genetic and biological factors, a person’s environment and psychological make-up also plays a vital role in the development of depression.
How to Support Someone with Depression
When it comes to helping someone with depression, one of the first things you can do is keep an eye on the person you suspect might be struggling with the condition. You can be on the lookout for the following symptoms:
- If a person experiences persistent feelings of sadness, anxiety, or emptiness.
- If a person feels hopeless or pessimistic.
- If a person experiences feelings of irritability, restlessness, or frustration.
- If a person feels guilty, helpless, or worthless.
- If a person shows a lack of interest and pleasure in hobbies and activities.
- If a person feels a lack of energy, fatigue, or feels like they are slowed down.
- If a person experiences difficulty concentrating, making decisions, or remembering.
- If a person experiences disturbances in their sleep cycle such as difficulty falling asleep or staying awake.
- If a person sees changes in appetite or weight.
- If a person experiences aches and pains without any clear physiological cause.
- If a person is plagued by thoughts of suicide or death.
If you spot these signs in a person you know, you should urge them to seek depression treatment by reaching out to a mental health professional. They might require medication or tools to help alleviate their symptoms that only an expert can provide. Apart from that, you can do the following things while helping someone with depression:
- Show Care:
People dealing with depression experience various emotions that can have a negative effect on their mental state. While dealing with such feelings, a depressed person might experience loneliness and feel isolated from others around them. In such cases, it is important to show a depressed person that they are surrounded by people who care about them. This helps them remember that they have people they can reach out to. It also reduces feelings of isolation.
While someone tells us about something that is bothering them, it is often reflexive to jump into problem-solving mode. However, while speaking with a depressed person, it is vital to be mindful and just listen. Often someone dealing with depression can feel like they have nobody they can speak to. Letting yourself be a sounding board who is willing to hear them out can help them feel acknowledged.
Even today, despite ample progress, there is a certain stigma associated with depression. Which is why people who suffer from depression often have a hard time letting people know about their condition. If someone who has depression chooses to let you know about their condition, accept them as they are. Avoid treating them as someone who is ‘broken’ and refrain from judging them.
- Suggest Help:
Try as you might, you cannot provide the kind of help and support a mental health specialist can. So, if you know someone who is struggling with depression, gently urge them to seek help. You can suggest they try therapy or seek similar depression treatment. You can also offer a list of resources that might help them. However, do remember not to put unnecessary pressure or intrude in someone’s private life.
- Offer Measures:
You can also help someone with depression by suggesting certain measures they can take that might alleviate their symptoms. For instance, you can offer to support them as they try staying physically active or work towards eating healthier. However, try not to suggest these measures during sensitive discussions and apply tact.
- Stay in Touch:
As mentioned, people struggling with depression might often feel lonely and isolated. In such cases, knowing they have people who make an effort to stay in touch with them goes a long way in making them feel supported. Whether you meet up with them for a coffee or simply text or call, reminding a depressed person that they are not alone can be of immense help.
Depression is not like a fever or the flu wherein you can pop pills and feel restored to full health. It is a serious condition, with symptoms that take time to abate. If you know someone dealing with depression, allow them to take their time to get better. Know that their path to recovery may not be linear and they might suffer from setbacks. In such events, remain patient and support them in their endeavour.
- Care for Yourself:
While wanting to help someone with depression is a noble and kind thought, it cannot be done at your own expense. If you truly want to support your loved ones, you must take care of your own health. Take time to recharge your batteries and focus on your wellbeing. If you feel the need to seek help yourself, do so.
Now that you know how to talk to someone with depression, you can apply the tips given above to support your loved ones. Again, do remember that it is not your job to help someone deal with depression and ideally, they should reach out to a mental health professional.
How to Help a Friend with Depression FAQs:
What helps people cope with depression?
Firstly, seeking professional help is of utmost importance while coping with depression. A mental health professional can offer tools and prescribe medication that can go a long way in alleviating symptoms. Additionally, making concrete changes in your life, such as exercising, eating well, relying on friends and family can also help one cope with depression.
What advice can you give someone who is depressed?
The best advice you can give to someone who is depressed is to seek professional help. Other than that, since you are not qualified to treat depression, it is best to offer gentle suggestions and let the other person decide what would suit them best. You can suggest that they talk to you or other loved ones about their struggles. You can offer to listen or be there for them when they need it.
How can I be kind to someone with depression?
While talking to someone with depression, one of the kindest things you can do is treat them like another person with their own life and feelings. Try not to judge them for their struggles and be patient. Listen to them when they try to talk to you and remind them that you care and are there for them. Try to avoid treating them like a problem that needs to be fixed and see if you can address any factor that might be contributing to their condition.
How do you empower someone with depression?
One of the best ways to empower someone struggling with depression is to encourage them to talk about their issues when they feel ready. Voicing their struggles and needs can help them seek the help they need and be an agent in their life.