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Helping someone with Depression

Helping a loved one with depression: from recognising the symptoms to providing support

Supportive family and friends can be a crucial lifeline for someone suffering with depression. Sometimes family members or close friends will be able to spot signs of depression in a loved one before they do, so it’s good to know what to watch out for. They may then encourage the individual to visit a GP, or seek help.  

There are some common signs and symptoms of depression to look out for, these can include: 

  • Losing interest in activities they would usually enjoy 
  • A negative and hopeless outlook on life and the future 
  • Talk of feeling worthless and empty  
  • Less interest in their appearance and the neglect of hygiene such as showering daily and brushing their teeth 
  • Frequent complaints of tiredness and a lack of energy 
  • Eats more or less than they usually would  
  • Sleeping more than usual or problems falling and staying asleep 
  • Trouble concentrating on everyday activities, such as watching television or reading  
  • Talk about death or suicide  

Depression can also take many forms, some which you wouldn’t ordinarily associate with it. It’s not always expressed through low mood and sadness, some other ways are: 

  • Anger and irritability  
  • Confusion and difficulty focusing 
  • Excessive fatigue 

Stay in touch

Let your friend or family member know that you’re there and available for support, whether that’s via text, phone or meeting up for a coffee. Often people who suffer from depression become withdrawn from social activities and avoid reaching out to friends and family, so you may feel the friendship becomes a one way street for a while. However, don’t take this as a sign they don’t care about your friendship and the support you’re giving, your supportive presence can make all the difference.  

Those with depression often feel guilty for turning down invitations to social events too, which can often lead to less invitations. This can lead to worsening depression, and the feeling of being forgotten or unwanted at social events. Reassure your friend by extending loose invitations, even if you know they are unlikely to attend. It can really make a difference.  

How to talk to someone with depression: what to say and what not to say

There are some do’s and don’ts when speaking to someone with depression, and it can be difficult to know what to say in order to both understand what’s happening and be sensitive. It’s important to remember that you don’t need to have all the answers to their worries, being a compassionate and understanding listener is much more important than giving advice. 

Where to start and questions to ask:

  • I’ve been worried about you lately, is everything ok? 
  • You’ve seemed down lately, I wanted to check in on you 
  • When did you start to feel this way? 
  • Have you thought about getting help? 

What not to say/do:

  • It’s all in your head 
  • Don’t be critical towards them, especially if you’ve never experienced depression yourself before 
  • Everyone goes through difficult times 
  • You should feel better by now 
  • We all have problems  

 It’s sometimes difficult to understand that a loved one can be feeling depressed, listening to them and what they have to say is often a vital lifeline, and a supportive shoulder to cry on can be crucial to their wellbeing and recovery.  

There are some do’s and don’ts when speaking to someone with depression, and it can be difficult to know what to say in order to both understand what’s happening and be sensitive. It’s important to remember that you don’t need to have all the answers to their worries, being a compassionate and understanding listener is much more important than giving advice.  

 

Signs of suicide

It’s important to be aware of signs of suicide, and if it becomes a real risk, to seek appropriate help. Here are some signs of suicidal intent to keep a lookout for in your loved one: 

  • Speaking about dying, preoccupied with the thought of death  
  • Seeking out pills, drugs, weapons or other lethal items 
  • Acting in a self destructive manner 
  • Behaving in a way that indicates they are saying goodbye 
  • Talking about being a burden to others  
  • Extreme mood swings 
  • Talking about feeling trapped, in pain 

Remember to take of yourself

It can sometimes be tempting to drop everything and dedicate all your time and energy to a friend with depression, but ultimately this will drain you in the long run. Set boundaries with yourself, and make compromises with your friend. For example, if they want you to come over right now but you’re busy, suggest you’ll pop in for coffee that afternoon when you’re available. It’s not wrong to want to help your friend, but make sure you are still caring for yourself.  

Support them in beginning and continuing therapy/treatment

Sometimes the road to recovery is draining, and those with depression may be tempted to cancel appointments/stop taking medication because they don’t see the point, or don’t feel worthy of getting better. Encourage your friend to continue with their treatment if they express doubts, perhaps remind them of how far they have come, and how much this treatment has helped them.  When it comes to medication, side effects can be unpleasant. Which can encourage people to stop taking their antidepressants. Try and support them to talk to their doctor or therapist about swapping antidepressants, as stopping abruptly without medical supervision can be dangerous and have negative health consequences.  

When to seek urgent help

If your loved one expresses suicidal feelings or thoughts, seek emergency help through a GP or by calling NHS 111. If you believe a loved one is in immediate danger, ring 999. Mind Allies are also always available for a chat, whether it’s you that is suffering or if you’re looking for advice on taking care of a friend, we’re always here for you.  

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