Depression doesn’t effect just the person experiencing it; it also impacts those closest to them.
Friends and family members can be a person’s greatest aid in their battle with depression or they can be another obstacle on the road to recovery.
Being informed, proactive and understanding is important to ensuring that you have a positive impact on a person who is struggling with depression.
All mental illnesses (whether it’s depression or anxiety or something else entirely) are serious conditions and should not simply be dismissed.
1. Watch for the symptoms.
Someone with depression will not always be upfront about their struggles. The first step in helping someone is identifying that they’re struggling. The Mayo Clinic lists some of the symptoms that a person with depression can exhibit. They include:
- Feeling sad, empty or hopeless
- Lack of energy
- Irregular sleep – whether it be insomnia or oversleeping
- Changes in appetite – whether it be reduced appetite or increased appetite
- Decreased interest or pleasure in fun activities
- Feeling worthless or guilty
Many people with depression will exhibit symptoms in a way that is noticeable. However, everyone experiences and expresses depression differently so this list doesn’t capture all the ways depression can manifest.
2. Help seek out treatment.
Not realizing you’re depressed, being ashamed of being depressed or not knowing how to get help while you’re depressed are just a few reasons why someone may not immediately seek out treatment.
Family members and friends can take some steps to help encourage their loved ones to see professional medical help.
- Talk openly. Discuss your concerns while expressing your love and support. It’s important the person does not feel attacked or judged for what they’re feeling. It’s important to emphasize that they are dealing with a real problem, not something that should simply be swept aside or ignored.
- Suggest professional help. While talking to a friend or family member is a good first step, a trained professional is the best option. Encourage them to see a mental health professional.
- Help find treatment. For someone with depression, seeking out help may be overwhelming and frightening. One way to help is to look up medical professionals, help set up appointments, help prepare questions to ask during the appointment and offer to accompany them.
3. Be patient. Be understanding. Be supportive.
Few things can be more damaging to a person with depression than unsupportive surroundings. Be willing to listen, be encouraging and offer to help in any way you can.
Everyone experiences mental illness differently and the best way to see how you can help is to ask directly.
Remember that their depression isn’t your fault, but it’s also not their fault. Their journey to recover will have it’s ups and downs and you have to be prepared for those too and not get discouraged on the bad days.
Dealing with mental illness can be a scary and lonely ordeal. Simply being an attentive and good friend can go a long way in helping someone get better.