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Supporting someone with depression

June 20, 2022

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.

What does depression look like?

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. People often 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

As soon as you recognise the symptoms of depression encourage the person to get help. Here area few tips to starting that conversation.

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’s 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.

Really listen. 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

If you suspect someone you know might be feeling depressed, online cognitive behavioural therapy can help. Learn more about how it works, and find out whether you’re eligible for treatment.

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