Supporting Someone with Depression
How to Support Someone Struggling with Depression.
Unfortunately, in this day and age we all know someone who is suffering from depression. Being a serious medical condition that no one can see does make it very scary for the person who is suffering. It isn’t always easy to be there for them or know what you should do. Everyone is different and are affected by depression differently. There aren’t a one shoe fits all solution.
Saying things like “get over it” or “go for a walk you will be alright”, doesn’t help and makes it less likely they will come to you for support. But there are ways to assist throughout the tough times they are going through.
The symptoms can vary person to person. They will include but aren’t limited to sadness, emptiness, tearfulness and feeling hopeless. Also feeling angry, irritable, frustrated, with limited interest in things that used to bring you joy. Having too much or very little sleep or food. Issues with thinking, concentrating, decision making and even speaking. Most importantly a feeling of reduced self-worth, an increase in thinking about death and suicide. Finally, depression can even cause physical problems such as aches and pains. With each of these symptoms, the severity of its effect ranges from suicidal to mild blues.
Starting off with the very severe cases: Always ensure they are safe. Do not be afraid to ask if they have thought of self-harm. Often a person who is feeling depressed, this conversation doesn’t faze them much and is probably scarier to you then it is to them. This conversation is important as it can show how immediate the help needs to come. Look for warning signs in conversations like stating they “wish they were dead”. Other considerations can be if they have eaten lately or looking after themselves.
Severe depression can cause a catatonic effect where they don’t eat or get out of bed etc, they also need urgent care to ensure they don’t become dehydrated or malnourished. If they are at risk, many places have emergency mental health teams that will come and asses them, otherwise, you can take them to your local hospital’s emergency department. If they already have a mental health team involved in their care, contact their nurse or psychiatrist, giving them an alert that their patients mood has changed allowing them to give the increased support that is needed.
For those not as severe: Be patient. Not everyone who is going through depression knows what is going on with them or knows what they need to help them. They might not feel like talking and may even hide themselves away from everyone. It will be difficult for them to see how much they are being impacted by their mental health and won’t see the hole they are in at that moment.
It can be important just to be there for them, just be present.
They might not be ready for the hard truth or to be encouraged for a walk just yet. Try and persuade them to eat, shower or whatever they haven’t been doing. Ensure that they have food, medications, or anything else that is important to them. Offer to run out and grab anything they may need. They will not feel up to leaving the house and could be avoiding these tasks.
As long as they are safe, they are okay.
When they are ready to discuss how they feel you may not always understand what they are going through. It is often a mountain of emotions that skew their thoughts and feelings that make it hard to understand or explain. The important thing is to believe what they are saying is true, don’t try and argue or correct them. Acknowledge the impact it is having on their life.
Don’t try and jump in and rescue them, don’t try and fix everything. Just sit and listen to what they have to say.
Once they are ready for help, it is important to have them reviewed by their GP to find out how much support they may need. Discussing the need to see a doctor and the facts about depression being a medical issue that has many different treatments, helps remove any fear of stigma they may have. Approaches you can try to help them attend the appointment is through encouragement, assistance with practical tasks such as making the appointment, creating a list of questions, feelings, and thoughts. Importantly and finally attending the appointment as a support person. It can be extremely scary to talk about depression for the first time, not feeling alone can help them take those first steps. The options for them through the GP can be therapy, medication, or just ongoing monitoring. The GP may discuss different options with the patient, coming up with a plan together. There are also many holistic ways to help them improve their mood that you can encourage them to do, this is discussed in depression the holistic way. Keep involved in their life by making plans and just be present. Having something to look forward to gives them some positivity and helps them look to the future.
It can be incredibly hard to sit by and watch someone you love to feel so poorly but depression is often a journey that can take a long time to feel better. Just being there for them throughout can make all the difference. Ensure you look after yourself as well, this can be very draining.
The most important thing is for them to not feel ashamed to ask for help.