Help a Loved One Dealing with Depression
Edited by Becky Ferguson, Eng, Lynn, Mellisa Steves and 1 other
Mental Illness is a phrase that makes people uncomfortable. Despite the research of what mental illness is, how it is caused, and how common it is, there is still a stigma attached to it. For some reason, people still don't see it as what it is...a disease. A disease, just like diabetes or cancer, and one approximately 1 in 5 Canadians will experience during their lifetime. According to the World Health Organization, depression is common around the world, with an estimate of 350 million people of all ages affected by it. 350 MILLION people, and yet we still shy away from the topic. How is it possible that a disease that is among the leading causes of disability in the world (according to depressionhurts.ca) is still regarded as a stigma? The good news is that people are talking about mental illness more. The bad news is that it is still not enough, and the perception of those who have never experienced it is generally negative. I am someone who suffers from depression, and I have faced judgement because of my disease. I have lost friends, I have been called crazy, I have even lost a job because my boss didn't understand nor want to deal with what I was going through. It is painful to be rejected over something a person cannot control. There have been many people in my life who have tried to help me, but due to a lack of knowledge on their part, my condition often worsened because of their attempts to help. So, I would like to tell you how to best support someone you know who is going through depression.
Here is how you can help them
- 1Research it online, ask your doctor questions, go to the Canadian Mental Health Association in your region and get information. Whatever you need to do to understand what your loved one is going through, do it. Don't attempt to help without first gaining knowledge of the disease. Know what causes mental illness; a person with a family history is more likely to develop it; women are more likely to have it than men; a life situation/event can cause it, whether it is the loss of a loved one, high stress, financial difficulties, etc.Educate yourself about mental illness.
- 2Symptoms to watch out for include, but are not limited to, appetite change - overeating as well as not eating are signs; lack of energy - they're moving slower, and doing less in the day than they did before; tiredness - they are always tired, wanting to take naps and spend more time in bed; lack of focus/concentration - depression sufferers have a hard time staying focused on anything whether it be work, school, family life, etc.; Declining social life - they are not going out as much as they used to, they are cancelling plans at the last minute or they are simply not showing up for scheduled plans; staying in bed for a long portion of the day or all day - people with depression have an extremely difficult time getting out of bed and often don't have the strength to do it due to the exhaustion and hopelessness they feel.Observe your loved one to determine whether their behaviors are signs of depression.
- 3Asking someone with depression how they are feeling just reminds them that they are not feeling good. It reminds them that something is seriously wrong. They can get overwhelmed with questions because they can't think of answers or can't focus on what you're saying. Facing questions they can't answer will make them feel frustrated and helpless.Do not ask too many questions, especially 'how are you feeling'?.
- 4Being pushed into talking about it when they are not ready will likely cause them to isolate themselves more. Most people who are in the depths of depression don't want to talk about it for many reasons; they could be embarrassed, it could be too painful, or they just may not know how to explain it yet. If your loved one is suffering, but not ready to talk, just be with them in silence. Sit beside them or lay in bed with them and don't say anything. If they ask you to leave them alone, respect their wishes and leave the room, but do not leave them alone for long periods of time.Do not force them to talk about it.
- 5It takes a lot of courage for someone to talk about their depression and what they are going through, so when they do talk, let them. Don't try to take over the conversation or ask too many questions or start offering up solutions. Allow them tell you what they need from you.When they are ready to talk, listen.
- 6There is a good chance they will say no, so don't force it. Gently suggest it and accept the answer given. If they say no, let a few days pass, and gently suggest it again. In the meantime do some research about counseling centers and/or counselors in your region so when your loved one says they are ready for help, you can hand them their options immediately. Once they agree to see a counselor, call and arrange it right away.Encourage them to see a counselor.
- 7If they are up for it, go for a short walk, even just around the block. The fresh air and exercise will have a positive effect. Exercise has been proven to help those struggling with depression and I have personally seen the difference it has made in my own life.Try to get them some exercise.
- 8Call your doctor, go to a crisis center or take them to the hospital. They will not want to do any of these things, but in a case where they may cause harm to themselves, you have to force them. If they refuse to leave the house, call an ambulance. Let the professionals take over at this point.If they mention suicide or harming themselves, take it seriously and get help immediately.
- 9Someone close to me tried this method on me, and it made things much worse. He thought 'tough love' would help me snap out of it, so he told me that no one would want to be my friend or be around me if I was always sad and negative. In his defense he honestly believed he was helping me, but he didn't understand depression, and therefore his approach backfired. The 'tough love' sent me into a deeper depression and caused me to crawl into my isolation shell even more. It also made me hide what I was going through because I was afraid that if I told anyone, they would abandon me or get angry with me.Do not use tough love.
- 10Treat them normally and don't bring up their depression. If they bring it up and want to talk, listen. Don't treat them as if they could break any minute, and if they tell you they are fine, don't say "Really? Are you sure?". I took a leave of absence during my last job because my depression got quite bad. When I returned to work after three weeks, about half the people either avoided me or babied me. That made me feel like a freak. I understand that they were trying to be respectful and were not sure how to handle me, but what I needed was normalcy. I appreciated those who hugged me and welcomed me back, and then got right back into work mode with me.[[Image:When they start to get better and/or are in the process of healing, don't walk on eggshells around them.
If you have problems with any of the steps in this article, please ask a question for more help, or post in the comments section below.
Categories : Relationships
Recent edits by: Mellisa Steves, Lynn, Eng