Depression is a serious medical challenge that millions of people worldwide struggle with every day. According to Mental Health America, in the United States, youth mental health is worsening, in particular. Here are the Tips for Supporting a Friend or Family Member with Depression.
Also, in the 2017 to 2018 year, almost 20 percent of adults experienced a mental health issue, an increase of 1.5 million people over the data collected from the previous period. The numbers are undoubtedly much higher after the impact of the global COVID-19 pandemic and other stressors of 2020.
As a result, we should discuss depression and other mental health disorders more openly and actively. It’s also wise for all of us to know not just how to help ourselves if we get depression, but how to assist friends and family members. You can do multiple things to offer support to those you care about who might be going through a tough time. Read on for some tips you can utilize should you ever know someone in need of help.
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Understand the Signs of Depression to Watch Out For
Firstly, it’s useful to know the common signs of depression so you can tell if a friend or family member is suffering. Some red flags to watch out for include people losing or gaining a lot of weight or eating differently (much more or less) than usual. We all have changes in our appetite and weight generally over a year, but depressed people are often prone to binge eating or avoiding eating. They can have noticeable weight fluctuations and dining habits as a result.
Keep an eye out for people who don’t seem to want to do the same things they’ve loved in the past or don’t want to be very social anymore. Again, we all go through times when we’re busy or lose interest in a hobby, etc., but if you pick up on the fact that someone seems to have become significantly withdrawn and couldn’t care about doing much at all, pay close attention.
You might also spot a downslide if you hear a loved one often talk about feeling worthless, hopeless, guilty, full of shame, or related emotions. When someone talks negatively about themselves repeatedly and uses extreme statements such as “I’m a failure” or “I can never do anything right,” some alarm bells should ring.
Some other signs to look out for include people saying they can’t concentrate properly or feel fatigued all the time and suffer from insomnia or excessive nightmares. These things point to a potential depression diagnosis.
Encourage People to Get Professional Help
If you’re worried about someone’s mental health, encourage them to get professional help. This is one of the best ways to support them since you don’t want them to spiral so much that they self-harm or otherwise negatively impact their lives and bodies.
Those struggling with their feelings can see their physician for diagnosis and a treatment plan. They may need to trial depression medication to improve their mood or change other factors like diet and exercise. Most people also benefit from a mental health professional. If they seem reticent to do this, offer to research therapists and book them in. In some cases, depression sufferers may also need to enter a treatment center or go to an emergency room for assistance ASAP.
Be a Good Listener and Ask Questions
You can help your friend or family member by being a good listener, too. Let people know you’re there for support and won’t judge or try to solve everything for them. It pays to ask questions to find out more about how people feel and where they’re currently at psychologically. Strategic questions should make it easier to get some insights.
You might ask things such as when your loved one first noticed they were feeling low and if anything significant has changed for them in recent months, such as at work. See if they can pinpoint the times when they feel worse and what triggers those emotions, as well as anything that boosts their mood. In particular, it’s wise to ask, “Have you had any suicidal or self-harm thoughts?” so you can tell how dire the situation might be.
Don’t Close Off if the Person Seems to Push You Away
Depressed people often push others away when they’re low as they feel they’re no fun anymore or burden others. They mightn’t have the energy to be around others, too. If you feel like a family member or friend is pushing you away, try not to let yourself close off. It may be hurtful, but it’s not a personal attack on you. Keep in touch and encourage them to connect with you in any way they like.
Showing someone who’s depressed that you’re there for them no matter what can have a profoundly positive effect. Every step you take to offer support may feel small to you but can be meaningful to those in need.