While many people experience feeling a little bit down or blue occasionally, it’s important to recognise when these feelings might mean something more.
Depression is a serious mental health condition that can often be incredibly debilitating to the person who is suffering from it.
While depression affects everyone differently, there are some more common characteristics and behaviours that may be noticeable, such as feelings of hopelessness, emptiness and periods of prolonged sadness.
When people suffer from depression, some of the symptoms they may experience include:
- Weight loss or gain as their appetite is often affected
- Loss of interest in normal everyday activities
- Feelings of anger or agitation
- Fatigue or lethargy
If a loved one suffers from depression, it is important to note that you aren’t going to be able to cure their depression, but there are things you can do to reach and help.
It is difficult to know the right thing to do or say especially if you have not dealt with depression yourself.
We have put together some tips that may help provide care to your loved one.
1. Take the time to learn about depression
As we mentioned above, depression can present itself in so many ways, some that are less obvious than others.
There are also a number of stereotypes and stigma around the subject which can make talking about it or knowing what to do even harder.
One of the best things you can do to help your friend is to try to understand what they may be feeling.
They don’t need to know you are doing this, but by taking some time to learn about depression, you might understand how they might be feeling, or why they might be acting a certain way.
This can also help you know how to react if their behaviour might have hurt you in the past.
Often people who suffer from depression withdraw and push people away, and this can hurt if you are the person being pushed away.
By knowing that their depression may be a factor in causing this behaviour, you might feel less hurt when this occurs, and it may equip you to be ready when this occurs.
You’re not expected to learn everything there is to know about depression, but showing an interest shows that you care.
2. Be there, listen and be patient
Depression can be an isolating illness, with sufferers pushing people away even though that may not be the outcome they are hoping for.
And while you may want to respect your friends wishes, or you might be hurt, try to let them know that you are there for them.
Try letting them know that you want to understand how they feel and that you are there to talk if they want to.
You don’t need to force them into talking, and you don’t need to have the answers, or an opinion.
You can be most helpful when you’re just listening to them and giving them an outlet when they are ready to talk.
Sometimes merely being there, whether they need to vent, cry, or just sit in silence, is a greater help than you might realise.
The company of someone who cares shows patience, interest and caring and will often allow the sufferer to realise that their feelings are heard and valid.
And in a lot of ways, these nonverbal actions mean just as much, if not more than words.
While it’s not easy to watch someone you care for experience depression, it might even be frustrating, your patience will always be appreciated.
It lets them know that it doesn’t matter how long their recovery process takes, you are there to help them.
3. Offer help with everyday tasks – but know when it’s time to seek professional help.
Depression can be so debilitating to some people that everyday tasks, like driving the kids to school, grocery shopping or making phone calls can seem impossible.
While it might seem like small tasks to someone who doesn’t suffer from depression, these can weigh on the minds of someone with depression to the point they feel completely overwhelmed and consumed by them.
Consider offering to help your friend with these tasks.
It can be difficult to bring up the topic, but sometimes asking how you can help them today, and suggesting small things like, making a phone call for them, or going grocery shopping can have a big impact on them, and relieve some pressure.
While helping them out with some of these tasks is helpful, it’s also important to understand that you can’t help with everything and know when to seek professional help.
Depression rarely gets better without some sort of professional help, so it’s imperative that you can recognise when it’s time to bring in the professionals.
If you notice frequent mood swings, risky behaviours, or even the topic of death being discussed, it might be time to help them find professional help.
It’s important that as their friend you understand that while you may feel an inflated feeling of responsibility, you cannot and are not responsible for fixing them.
It’s important to understand this because you need to be aware that you aren’t going to have all the answers or be able to solve all of their problems.
There are professionals that can provide relief and support to them and help them.
In some instances, they may not even understand the help and resources available to them, so often you helping to guide them to research possible treatment options can be of great help.
4. Make sure you look after yourself
If you’re not healthy, or taking care of yourself, your own physical and mental wellbeing can be compromised, which in turn may affect your ability to help your friend.
Watching someone you care about suffer from depression can take a toll on you and your mental health as well.
While it’s natural to feel concerned for them and to want to help, if your own backyard isn’t in order, you may not be offering the best help that you could.
Make sure that you prioritise your own wellbeing, you can do this by doing some of the following:
- Put time aside to relax – you need to take time out for yourself and spend it relaxing and resting
- Set Boundaries – while you always want to be there for your friend, you may need to set boundaries to ensure you are able to rest and relax. The priority to make sure you don’t spread yourself too thin,
- Seek help – while your friend may need professional help, you too can seek help and advice from mental health professionals.
5. Stay in touch and keep at it
Feelings of isolation are often experienced by people who suffer from depression.
While it isn’t realistic for you to always physically be present, staying in touch and reaching out can make a huge impact.
People with depression can often withdraw and reject social invitations, and while this can get discouraging to the people extending the invite, try not to take it personally and continue to invite them.
While they may not say yes, you reaching out will remind them that you are thinking about them.
Try to stay connected, even if it is a text to say hi, or a phone call to see if they need help with anything.
It can feel unrewarding and frustrating at times, but you never know when they may be ready to talk or accept your invitation.
Depression is a complicated illness.
If someone you care about suffers from depression, it can be difficult to watch, and even harder to help, but it’s important to remember that even the smallest gestures can make a large impact.
And if you aren’t sure what you can do to help, why not encourage them to seek help – the Brain Wellness Spa offers depression treatments Perth that may help them manage their depression.
Remember, when someone suffers from depression, they may not ask for your help, but keep the above tips in mind, they may help more than you realise.