How to support a loved one suffering from depression
Watching someone you love suffer from depression is upsetting; their pain can sometimes become your pain. Often, family and even the closest of friends don’t know how they can help. The first step is to recognise the symptoms of depression and understand how it can be treated.
Know what depression looks like
The ‘black dog’ can creep in gradually. Very often people notice the physical symptoms recognising the emotional or behavioural symptoms of depression. Anyone who suffers from it should seek support, but they might need your help to recognise it’s there. Look for subtle changes to behaviour:
- Loss of interest in work or seeing friends
- Disengaged with hobbies or activities that usually bring pleasure
- Sleeping too much, too little or difficulty getting to sleep
- Noticeable weight loss, gaining lots of weight or irregular eating habits
- Frequent mood swings
- The person is irritated, irrational or highly critical
- The person becomes forgetful, disorganised or indecisive
Help a loved one to help themselves
Depression can’t be compared to feeling down in the dumps; it’s a feeling of sadness or loss of pleasure that persists continuously for three weeks or more. In the worst of cases, depression can cause a person to take their own life to escape the suffering. As soon as you recognise the symptoms of depression encourage the person to get help. It is a mental health disorder that responds to effective treatment such as medication and psychological therapy.
Talk about it
A move towards recovery can only begin when a sufferer opens up about how they feel. However, this is incredibly difficult when a person feels alone, confused or is frightened by their feelings. Let them know it is okay to talk openly about it and share your own worries about their behaviour, rather than ignore it. This way, depression doesn’t become an ugly word or something they feel they should hide.
When it’s out in the open you can encourage your loved one to see their doctor who can refer them to see a specialist. Alternatively, help them find a trained therapist they can talk to on a regular basis to work through their issues.
One of the most important things anyone can do, professional or otherwise, is to listen when someone with depression talks about how they feel. Just being there, even for a short period of time, can bring welcome relief.
Take care of you too
At times it is exhausting to care for someone with depression. You might find their comments hard to hear or feel overwhelmed by their suffering. You might also face the brunt of difficult behaviour. Therefore, it’s important to look after your own well-being as you try to help them:
- Talk to someone about your feelings
- Confront difficult emotions like frustration, anger or guilt
- Eat and sleep well to keep your energy up
- Find time to relax or meditate
- Take time out to do things you enjoy
- Set boundaries: you have a life to live too
Ieso Digital Health provides free online therapy services on behalf of the NHS in many areas of the UK. Click here to get started.