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How To Help Someone With Depression
If you suspect someone you care about is suffering from depression, there are various steps you can take that will significantly help. It’s important to know that depression is fairly common. According to the World Health Organization, it affects 280 million people worldwide and leads to 700,000 suicides each year. Unfortunately, due to the stigma surrounding mental health and lack of access to therapy, most people with depression aren’t treated for many years — if at all.
While there is no known cure, there are several things you can do to support someone with depression. One of the best things you can do is educate yourself on the condition so you can quickly recognise the signs and symptoms. Then you can take action and prevent their condition from worsening.
Here’s a look at how to help someone with depression.
Recognise the Signs
Not everyone will experience depression the same way, so signs and symptoms vary from person to person. However, there are a few key indications to look out for:
- Showing signs of unhappiness or melancholy
- Are pessimistic about their future
- Losing interest in hobbies or spending time with friends and family
- Saying they feel hopelessly empty, worthless, or overwhelmed
- Becoming easily irritable
- Reduced energy
- Change in sleep habits, whether it’s sleeping more or less than usual
- Neglecting their hygiene by skipping showers, brushing their teeth, or not getting dressed
- Change in eating habits leading to weight loss or gain
- Trouble concentrating, making decisions, and being forgetful
- Talking about death or suicide
Have a Conversation
Once you’ve determined that someone you’re close to is showing signs and symptoms of depression, you should sit them down to talk. You want to express your concerns for them and let them know you’re there to listen if needed. However, you want to be careful about being too dismissive.
Here are some Dos and Don’ts to help you better understand how to help someone with depression.
- Have the conversation in person at a place they feel most comfortable
- Ask them if they’re okay without mentioning you suspect they’re suffering from depression
- Respect their decision if they don’t want to talk
- Use active listening techniques showing empathy with your body language
- Ask questions to help you better understand what they’re going through
- Validate their feelings and experiences
- When the time is right, recommend they seek support from a professional
- Don’t dismiss their feelings and tell them to “snap out of it” or “it will pass”
- Don’t dismiss their feelings by chalking it up to stress, work, etc.
- Don’t have the conversation in a text or email
- Don’t hold the conversation where it will be regularly interrupted
- Don’t force the conversation on them if they’re not comfortable
- Don’t shame them for their behaviour changes
- Don’t compare their experience to yours
- Don’t offer advice as this should only come from a professional
- Don’t bring up or discuss your opinions on medication
Help Them Find a Psychotherapist
Not everyone feels comfortable seeing a counsellor or psychotherapist, but it can be much easier going through the process when someone is there with you. If both of you are comfortable with it, help them find a specialist who works with those suffering from depression in their area. Offer to go with them to their first depression counselling appointment.
If they still don’t feel comfortable, there are other options to consider. Online therapy is often a great way to get started as sessions are held where they feel most comfortable. Once they’ve been properly diagnosed with depression or another mental health condition, they can take the appropriate steps towards healing.
Encourage Them Outside of Therapy
Most counsellors and psychotherapists will recommend certain lifestyle changes to anyone experiencing depression. Often these include regular exercise, a healthy diet, and drinking less alcohol. Part of understanding how to help someone with depression is supporting a healthier lifestyle.
Consider encouraging them by taking long walks or hikes together, getting a gym membership with them, and cooking healthy meals together. It’s a great way to support friends or family members with depression. If you don’t want to support your friend in this way, do your best to avoid encouraging them to make unhealthy decisions.
For example, don’t pressure them to pick up fast food with you or to order pizza while hanging out. You should also avoid pushing them to attend any events or nights out where everyone will be drinking, as this can derail their progress. With your support, they will likely be able to apply these healthier lifestyle choices without your encouragement.
Help With Day-to-Day Tasks
Day-to-day tasks are far more difficult for someone suffering from depression. Laundry will pile up, dishes sit in the sink, and bills go unpaid. Lending a hand with these daily tasks can significantly help improve their mental health and lift some weight off their shoulders.
Taking an hour or two out of your week to help them with some cleaning can make a huge difference. While you’re cooking or working out with them each week, consider taking some extra time to throw in a load of laundry or empty the dishwasher. It’s a great way to show your support and assist them while they focus on their mental health.
Helping someone with depression or any health problem doesn’t mean you’re required to give them full access to your support 24 hours a day. There will understandably be times when you’re unavailable to them, as you can’t be expected to put your life on hold. In this case, come up with a contingency plan if they can’t get in touch with you, which may include contacting family members or a support hotline.
Part of learning how to help someone with depression is understanding you still have to put yourself first. Helping someone suffering from a mental health condition can be exhausting and taxing on your own mental health. Set boundaries by making a set schedule.
For example, make plans to work out and cook with them twice a week. Ask them to contact someone else if they require support during your work hours. Most importantly, make sure to practice self-care and not neglect your needs.
Stay in Touch
Those suffering from depression are more likely to cancel plans and find it difficult to keep in touch with friends. This may increase during therapy as they try to create healthier habits. They also may have started on a medication that will cause fatigue, headaches, and upset stomach until their body adjusts.
It’s important to keep reaching out to them during this time, as isolation can further their depression. Continue offering them loose invitations to hang out, even if you know they’re likely going to decline. Don’t pressure them to go out, and make sure they know the invitation will still be there when they feel up to it.
Have a Plan For Emergency Situations
Even if your friend or family member doesn’t seem depressed enough to hurt themselves or attempt suicide, it is essential to have a plan in mind for emergencies. However, it shouldn’t be a secret, and you should make the plan with them. While everyone’s emergency plan will be different, here are some tips when making yours.
Discuss Warning Signs
Ask them about their thoughts, feelings, or physical symptoms leading up to a breakdown. If they have specific triggers, discuss those too. Ensuring they can recognise their state of crisis early can be extremely helpful in these types of situations.
Take Action When Signs Emerge
When signs of crisis begin to show, they must know to take action right away. This is much easier when a specific plan has been determined ahead of time. Actions can include:
- Having them go immediately to a predetermined safe place
- Turning over their car keys and medications to someone they trust
- Surrounding themselves with those who support them
Create a List of Reasons To Live
Before entering crisis mode, they should come up with a list of reasons to live. It can include photos, memories, notes from others, or anything they want. Then, when in crisis mode, they should have easy access to these items to help manage their emotions until their state of emergency has passed.
Have Distractors Set Up
While in a state of crisis, the best way to get through it is with distractions. Have your friend or family member come up with a few activities they can enjoy on their own in their safe space during these moments. Examples include reading, colouring, gaming, and meditating.
Part of your crisis plan should include emergency contact information to suicide helplines, their counsellor, and other professionals who can help.
Keep in mind, anyone involved in an emergency plan for someone suffering from depression should be made aware of it before a crisis arises.
Psychotherapists Specialising in Depression in Perth
If someone you care about is suffering from depression, contact the mental health professionals at the Energetics Institute in Perth, Western Australia. Our psychotherapists are qualified to work with clients suffering from various mental health conditions and can aid recovery through in-person talk therapy or online sessions. Call us now at 0414 897024 to schedule an appointment with one of our psychotherapists today.