How To Help Someone With Depression

How To Help Someone With Depression

You may be wondering how to go about helping someone with depression. What do you say? What should you avoid saying? Ar

You may be wondering how to go about helping someone with depression. What do you say? What should you avoid saying? Are there effective approaches you can learn to help someone with depression?

Or perhaps you’re trying to figure out how to cope with depression and could benefit from loved ones knowing how to support you.

If someone in your life is dealing with depression, this article can help guide how to help.

If you are living with depression, consider sharing this article or discussing some of these tactics with family or friends so they can understand how to support you.

What Is Depression?

Depression is a serious but common mental health disorder that affects people of all ages and backgrounds. It is a treatable illness that can be addressed through talk therapy, medications, light therapy, or a combination of treatment approaches. Support systems including friends, family and loved ones are important to the management of depression.  

A person with depression struggles with getting through daily tasks, interacting with others, feeling hopeful, or being interested in anything. Depression affects moods and interferes with an individual’s ability to feel good. Affecting perception, can leave the person exhausted, hopeless, listless, restless, irritable, sad, anxious, or feeling empty inside. 

A mood disorder, depression can also be referred to as:

  • Depressive disorder
  • Major depression
  • Clinical depression
  • Major depressive disorder

Causes & Risks Of Depression

For each person dealing with depression, determining the cause of this condition can be challenging. However, the medical community agrees that several influences can come into play, and potential causes or risk factors include:

  • Genetics & heredity: Depression and other mood disorders sometimes run in families.
  • Brain makeup: Imbalances in brain chemicals can lead to depression.
  • Health conditions: Some medical conditions can contribute to or give rise to depression.
  • Trauma & stress: Depression can arise when life circumstances become excessively stressful or traumatic, impacting a person’s coping mechanisms. 
  • Medications: Prescription or illegal drug use can contribute to depression, as can excessive alcohol use

In some people, there are no known causes of depression. Sometimes the start of depression can be traced back to a life-altering event, such as losing a loved one through death, divorce, separation, or other reasons, or being in a serious accident. 

More and more, research points to depression being caused by a combination of different factors: genetic, environmental, psychological, circumstantial, and biological. 

Risk Of Suicide

As you consider how to help someone with depression, it’s important to know that in a depressed person, suicidal thoughts may be present. Having major depression increases the risk of suicide, so it’s important to pay attention if your friend or loved one talks about suicide or any form of self-harm. 

Suicide Warning Signs

Since depression is associated with a higher risk of suicidal thoughts and actions, it’s important to recognize suicide warning signs. They include:

  • Talking of death or suicide: This could take the form of threatening to harm or kill oneself, but it can also be more subtle. The individual might say things like, “The world would be better off without me,” or, “I can’t take this anymore.”
  • Giving away treasured items: If your loved one gives you or other people special items, saying things like, “I won’t need this anymore,” or, “Take good care of this for me,” that is a warning sign.
  • Looking for ways to die: If pills are missing, your depressed loved one could be taking them to attempt an overdose. If the person suddenly buys a gun or researches ways to die, this is a serious warning. 
  • Withdrawing from life: A complete withdrawal from activities, including missing events that were previously anticipated with some level of optimism, can be a warning sign. 
  • Experiencing radical mood swings: Behaving recklessly, being agitated or overly anxious, or fluctuating between euphoria and misery can be suicide warning signs.

If you notice suicide warning signs in your friend, take action. Here’s what you can do:

  • Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
  • Keep communicating with the individual
  • Gently encourage your friend or loved one to get professional help
  • Recruit friends and arrange to have people around your loved one for support and to help keep them safe
  • Encourage, reassure, support, and care when they have setbacks with positive reinforcement
  • Remove potentially dangerous items from the person’s access 
  • Try to stay with the person, or keep them from being alone, until they can get emergency or professional help
  • In some cases, you may need to call 911 or take the individual to the emergency room 

How To Recognize Symptoms Of Depression

Clinical depression gets in the way of living a full life. A depressed family member, friend, or loved one has a difficult time feeling fulfilled and may be missing out on life in many ways. 

Whether it makes them withdraw from social life, avoid gatherings, feel poorly about themselves, pass on career, romance, or life opportunities, or feel too tired and empty to want to do anything, depression robs people of the right to live to their full potential. Depression affects a person’s mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing. 

In the question of how to help someone with depression, the first step is to recognize the symptoms. These are some of the symptoms of depression:

  • Lack of involvement: The person resists or avoids participating in life, skipping everything from simple family meals to significant social gatherings, or missing school or work, and appearing disinterested, disengaged, and dissatisfied.
  • Mood or communication changes: A once friendly and communicative friend may become distant, closed off, disconnected, grumpy, indifferent, protective, and isolated.
  • Feelings of deep sadness: Signs of this can include tears, despair, internal turmoil, and hopelessness. 
  • Broken sleep patterns: This could express itself as oversleeping, not sleeping enough, having trouble going to sleep, or falling asleep on the job or at school.
  • Irritability: You may notice greater levels of frustration, annoyance, anger, restlessness, and anxiousness.
  • Changes in behavior: Activities that were once fun and engaging may suddenly be avoided, or unusual behaviors like excessive drinking or high-risk activities may suddenly surface.
  • Thinking & focus issues: For a person with depression, it becomes hard to concentrate, remember, finish tasks, or follow instructions. 
  • Physical issues: Ongoing depression can contribute to physical problems, including digestive issues, fatigue, lack of energy or strength, body aches, weight changes, chronic pain, and nausea.

A person does not need to have all these symptoms to be diagnosed with depression. Some symptoms may be more pronounced than others. 

Identifying Depression In A Friend Or Family Member

Sometimes it can be difficult to see depression in someone we’re close to. We may mistakenly attribute the symptoms we see to other causes, such as being overworked, not getting enough sleep, or going through a temporary rough patch. Helping someone with depression, however, requires that we identify this condition in a loved one so that we may serve as the support system they need to seek help. 

It can also be hard to identify depression because our loved ones may attempt to hide it. A depressed person may try to appear happy and cheerful on the outside either because it’s expected of them, or because they don’t want to worry others, when they are, in fact, hurting deeply inside. 

If you think a loved one is struggling with depression, but you’re not sure, don’t be afraid to bring up the subject. Your friend or family member may not know how to bring it up and may be relieved to finally have someone to talk to about what they’re going through. 

10 Things You Can Do To Help Someone With Depression

It’s natural to want to know how to help someone with depression without making matters worse for them. First, understand that reaching out and showing you care is a great way to offer support. 

Second, know that it’s not your job to fix the problem. There are qualified professionals trained in effective ways to help someone with depression. Don’t put unrealistic expectations on yourself, but do take action to support your loved one.

Here are ten things you can do to help:

  1. Communicate openly: It’s perfectly fine to open up and share your concerns. You can start the conversation with something like, “I’m feeling that you might be struggling with something, and I want you to know that I’m here for you. Would you like to talk about it?”
  2. Be empathetic: You can be a good listener and a supportive individual for someone with depression. When you’re listening, be fully present. Offer support through gentle, affirming, and nonjudgmental statements such as, “I’m sorry you’re going through this. But you’re not alone. I’m here for you, no matter what.”
  3. Value the person: Let your friend or family member know that they matter to you. Let them know that they are loved and wanted, just as they are.
  4. Offer your help: Someone who is dealing with depression may feel very alone and may not know how to ask for assistance. Be there for them by offering your help and following through, whether it’s picking up a meal or helping with errands, for example.
  5. Encourage getting help: Let your loved one know that professional help is available to help them feel better. You can even assist with scheduling and driving to appointments.
  6. Provide validation: Assure the person dealing with depression that it’s not their fault. Explain that depression is a treatable medical condition, and that help is available.
  7. Suggest a medical checkup: If your loved one doesn’t believe that they have clinical depression or resists seeing a therapist, you can still help them get medical help by recommending a checkup with their own physician. 
  8. Encourage engagement: Invite your friend or family member to join you on walks, go out to lunch, or simply go outside to watch a beautiful sunset. Don’t be pushy, but don’t give up, either. Keep inviting and keep trying to get your loved one involved in uplifting, beneficial activities.
  9. Take the initiative: You may be wondering how to comfort someone with depression, and one way is to take the initiative and do practical, kind things for them. You can wash dishes for them, do their laundry, bring them comfortable slippers – anything that eases their load or helps them feel cared for.
  10. Be there for the long haul: Treating and overcoming depression takes time. Be patient. Don’t expect quick fixes. Continue to provide caring support throughout the recovery process.

How To Talk To Someone About Depression

You may not know exactly how to talk to someone with depression; you may worry that your words might somehow make the situation worse. Rest assured, by reaching out you are helping the person feel connected and supported.

Even if the person resists your attempts to communicate, keep trying. Don’t take it personally if they don’t want to engage. Gently persist. You can initiate a conversation through one of the following:

  • Would you like to talk about it? I’m here for you, when you’re ready.
  • What would you like me to do to help you today?
  • May I share some resources with you that might be helpful?
  • What can I do to take some of the stress out of your life?

Things Not To Do

There are certain things you’ll want to make sure to avoid because they won’t help someone with depression. Things not to do include:

  • Blaming: Your loved one is not at fault for being depressed. Depression is a medical condition. 
  • Dismissing: Don’t say things like, “You should snap out of it,” or, “Just cheer up.”
  • Judging: Unless you’ve had clinical depression, you don’t know what your loved one is going through. Judging will not help; caring and showing empathy will.
  • Giving up: Your loved one needs you on their side. Don’t give up on them, even if progress takes time.

What To Do In A Crisis Situation

Emergencies may arise. In a crisis situation, your loved one may be suicidal, behaving recklessly, or endangering others. In such a situation, take these steps:

  • Call 911 
  • If it’s safe to do so, take your friend or family member to the local hospital’s emergency room
  • Do not do things that would put you into unsafe situations

Caregiver Tips 

In the process of helping someone with depression, don’t forget to take care of yourself. Here are several tips to ensure you get the care, support, and nurturing you need:

  • Create boundaries: You don’t need to be everything to the person you are helping. Set healthy boundaries to avoid burnout or putting yourself at risk.
  • Engage in self-care: Maintain your own wellbeing. Treat yourself to what makes you feel good, whether it’s a morning jog, a long bath, or a fun movie.
  • Ask for help: You don’t have to be the only person who’s helping someone with depression. Get others to come aboard and help. This will create a whole support network for you and your loved one, benefiting both.

Helping someone with depression is a long and hard journey. We hope this article helps you better understand what depression is, its common symptoms, and your options to help someone dealing with it.

In case of an emergency, please call 833-456-4566 or visit https://www.crisisservicescanada.ca/en/.  

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