Depression is a condition that can strike anyone at any point, it is debilitating and can make the sufferer want to isolate themselves and become non-communicative.
I have seen various instances of family members and friends reaching out on the internet for ways to help someone with depression. What should they say to them? What can they do to help? The aim of this blog post is to provide some guidance, ideas or support to those who may be struggling to deal with someone that they care about who has depression.
Depression is a serious disorder that can be completely overwhelming, however it is treatable and there are various options for help. It can prevent a sufferer from moving on with their life, enjoying day to day experiences and distance them from their family and friends. It can impact not only the sufferer but also those close to them.
For those who may be dealing with a person suffering from depression, it can be an overwhelming, worrying experience and knowing how to approach the subject without alienating the sufferer or making the situation worse can be a source of tremendous worry.
Depression is a serious condition, never underestimate the effect that it can have upon the person suffering from it. It can drain all energy, all optimism. all motivation and all the joy from life. It is often said that someone should just “snap out of it” or “pull themselves together” but that isn’t how depression works.
It needles away at you, telling you that you are worthless and there is no point to anything you try to do as you are a failure. Depression can make it difficult to connect with anyone on an emotional level, even if they are the person you love most in the world — you feel worthless and that they would be better off without you. Depression can make the sufferer say hurtful things, however, it is often not the true voice of your loved one but the depression speaking.
Hiding the problem and essentially enabling the depression is not healthy, there are various options for treatment but the hardest step can be asking for help — if you think that you aren’t worth saving then why would you listen to anyone else telling you that you need help? The change needs to come from within. You cannot fix the problem of your loved one yourself, but you can provide support and understanding that will enable them in a positive way to seek help.
How Can I Tell If Someone Is Depressed?
It is often the family and friends of a sufferer who notice a problem first, this is why it is important to understand the symptoms and warning signs of depression:
- Lack of concern about anything anymore.
- Lost interest in work, family, hobbies, sex and other previously enjoyed activities.
- Uncharacteristically sad, short tempered, moody, irritable or critical.
- Feelings of hopelessness or helplessness.
- Bleak or negative outlook on life.
- Sleep patterns disturbed — Sleeping less or oversleeping.
- Feels lethargic and drained most of the time.
- Withdrawing from social activities, family interaction or friends.
- Appears forgetful, indecisive, withdrawn or vacant
- Shows signs of substance abuse, such as drinking more or abusing drugs (including sleeping tablets, prescription drugs and painkillers).
Ways To Talk To Someone With Depression?
Approaching someone with depression can feel like a minefield, you do not want to make things worse but you want to make sure that you are offering the best support that you can. Listening is key — when you have depression it can feel as though your thoughts are not valid and not worth listening to but self expression can be a catalyst for change. If you listen compassionately and without judgement, purely from a platform of support, it can be an effective way of starting to help. You cannot fix someone with depression, but you can offer them the support that they need.
The following may help you start a conversation about depression:
“I’ve been feeling concerned about you lately”
“Recently I’ve noticed that you haven’t seem your usual self, I wondered how you are doing?”
“I just wanted to check up on you as you have seemed pretty down recently”
You could also ask:
“When did you start to feel this way?”
“Did something happen that made you start to feel this way?”
“Have you thought about speaking to your GP or a professional about this?”
“How can I help you or support you at the moment?”
Support can offer encouragement and hope — depression can be isolating so knowing that you are not on your own can be a big step.
Never say things such as:
“Look on the bright side”, “It’s all in your head” or “Just snap out of it” — these are of no help to someone who may be suffering with depression and can exacerbate the situation.
How to encourage a depressed person to seek help?
You cannot fix someone who has depression but you can encourage them to seek the help that they need. Depression saps energy and can skew perspective so the act of making an appointment at the GP’s or finding help can seem completely daunting and unachievable. The negative narrative that accompanies depression can make a person believe that the situation is hopeless and treatment pointless as they will always be the same. This means that admission of a problem and help to seek treatment can be essential.
You can suggest a general check up at the Doctor’s which may be less daunting than approaching it as an appointment for depression. A Doctor can rule out medical causes of depression and refer the sufferer to the correct form of treatment, sometimes a professional opinion can make all the difference as it validates what the person has been feeling.
Offering to accompany your loved one to any appointments may take away the fear and apprehension surrounding attending them. If you are depressed and have low energy then it can be a great help to have the support there to help you arrange appointments and know that there is someone supporting you as you attend sessions.
Encouraging the person to make a list of symptoms before seeing a Doctor or professional can be a great help. It can be difficult to explain exactly how you feel when you are suffering with depression and writing the symptoms down allows clarity and makes sure nothing has been missed.
How Can I Support My Loved One’s Treatment?
Compassion, patience, understanding and providing support when needed are all valuable tools. You can provide whatever assistance they need with arranging or attending appointments and make sure you have realistic expectations of recovery — you cannot recover from depression overnight and in some circumstances it can be a lifelong battle.
Encourage activity, especially exercise which is proven to help ease depression. Don’t get discouraged or stop asking — just gently suggest activities that may help. You can also lead by example and maintain a positive outlook, eat healthily, avoid alcohol, avoid drugs and look to others for support.
The following organisations all provide support for those suffering with depression and their loved ones, if you are struggling yourself or are worried about a loved one then they are happy to provide support and help:
Samaritans UK: http://www.samaritans.org/
Depression Alliance: http://www.depressionalliance.org/
Depression UK: http://www.depressionuk.org/
At Cathartic, we believe that self expression and sharing of real experiences can be of benefit not only to the person sharing the story but also to those who may be in a similar situation and feel that they are alone. The more awareness we can bring to these issues the better so hopefully in the future less people feel isolated and seek treatment sooner.