How to Help a Friend with Depression
Depression or major depressive disorder is a mood disorder that causes a person to have a sad disposition and lack of enthusiasm towards life for prolonged periods. It outdoes usual sadness and grief by how intensely it impacts every aspect of a patient's life. Clinical Depression affects not only the mental health but also the physical health of a person. It has high morbidity and mortality, hence patients need a strong support system they can go to in case they have suicidal thoughts.
When somebody you truly care for is suffering from a condition as serious as depression, you might feel like you have a responsibility to help them through the tough times. Just letting them know you're there for them is never enough, you need to take certain steps to make their life easier. We can only fight the Stigma around Depression when we collectively as a community work towards creating a more comfortable and healing space for the patients.
Here are a few steps you can take to help a friend suffering from depression.
Detect The Depression
It's hard to judge your own symptoms critically. The people who interact with us daily are great judges of disparity in our behavior over time and can detect depression and other behavioral changes. As a result, you need to keep a check on your friends if they're going through depression. Here are some signs that your friend might be suffering from depression.
They seem sad for extended periods: Everybody has bad patches in their life when things don't go the way they want. But, if your friend has been encompassed by intense sadness for a long time now, then chances are that they are depressed.
Change in eating habits: Have you recently noticed your friend just playing with their food when you've had a meal together? Are they eating comfort foods at every chance they get? Depression often triggers eating disorders in patients because of how fundamental our relationships are to food. Your friend might have a change in appetite due to other reasons but there is a possibility that they're trying to eat their worries away.
Irritability and pessimism: Depression tends to make people irritable, agitated, and impatient. A patient also invariably becomes pessimistic and lacks hope regarding their future pursuits. If these behavioral differences have come up in your recent interactions with your friend, they may suffer from depression.
Negligence towards daily duties: Showering, brushing teeth, and wearing clean clothes might not seem like much to a healthy person. It's a part of all our daily routines. But, when somebody is going through depression, these simple tasks seem to take herculean efforts. If your friend seems to take no interest in their appearance all of a sudden, it could be a sign of depression.
Bad Sleep Schedule: If you find your friend staying up at odd times in the night or sleeping for almost days at an end, it's a reflection of their poor mental health. Sleep contributes to our neurological health immensely. The dark thoughts during depression can keep a person up during their much-needed sleep time or persuade them to sleep excessively.
Obsession with Death and Suicide: During conversations, your friend might've brought up death and suicide multiple times. We often talk about what's on our minds with the people we're comfortable with. Severe depression can cause suicidal thoughts and talk about it with you could be a signal from your friend that he or she is seeking help.
Listen to what they're saying
If you are worried about your friend's mental health, then bring it up with them mildly. What's even more important though is that you listen to them. Depression can incite loneliness in patients and they often feel like they're not cared about. Just listen to your friend patiently and consider whenever they want to pour their heart out. Understand that they might not want your advice on every concern they bring up.
Take their feelings seriously
When you're on the other end of the spectrum, it is hard to understand what depression feels like. If you're having a hard time empathizing, just don't demean how your friend says their feeling with phrases like "just stop thinking about it". Just listen to them and try to validate their feelings.
Do your Research
Most people have heard terms like clinical depression thrown around in the media or conversations. If you genuinely want to help a person suffering from depression, then a vague idea regarding the disorder will not help. To understand what they're really going through, read up on articles about depression. It will help you have a clearer insight into the situation at hand.
Take them to a psychologist or counselor
Discuss with your friend the gravity of their depression. If they want to seek professional help or if you notice that their health has been deteriorating alarmingly, take them to a doctor so that they can get a proper diagnosis and begin treatment. Due to the taboo around Depression in our society, getting medical help for your mental health problems can be very overwhelming. By accompanying them on their appointments, you can be a pillar of strength and courage for them.
Find suitable therapy options
Initially, the treatment alternatives and therapy types can seem daunting to a layman. A person suffering from depression already has a lot on their plate. By looking for trusted therapy options, you can help your friend not spend hours obsessing over who to go to. Additionally, it reminds them that they're not lonely in the battle against depression.
Stay in Touch
People suffering from depression can feel very guilty for no apparent cause. They feel like a burden on their family and friends and hence, might isolate themselves. Be the bigger person and keep the line of communication open. Call them periodically to just check on how they're doing and feeling. A quick text can do the trick too. Even better if you drop by their house. They might not seem enthusiastic at the moment but they do appreciate your effort.
Do not take everything personally
One of the symptoms of depression is isolation from social contact. Your friend might often feel too tired to pick up your calls or they might keep canceling your plans. You deserve to be treated well but keep in mind that they're going through an actual medical disorder. Depression tends to make people irritable and angry so they might lash out at you even when you try to help them. Look past the surface, it's their depression talking and not them.
If their behavior bothers you too much, consider taking some time off or talking to somebody else you can trust.
Take Care of Yourself as well
You need to understand that you are not responsible for your friend's depression. As much as you care about them, do not center your whole life around them and their problems. You're a separate individual with your own issues, if the gloom gets too much for you then kindly ask them for some time.
Misery loves company. Being surrounded by a depressive environment can induce mental fatigue and sadness in you too. Learn to prioritize your work and life when necessary.
Do not try to fix your friend
It is considerate of you to stand by your friend through their hard times but, do not treat them as inferior or a charity case. You are here to help them get through a tough phase, only gradual treatment can heal them. Encourage positivity but do not try to forcefully dump it on them.
Depression is a serious medical condition. Based on the severity of the case, the time for treatment to make noticeable results can vary. Even finding the right treatment option for an individual can be very time-consuming as well. Curing depression cannot be done at a snap. Be patient with your friend. If you start to get exasperated by their condition, then it's going to only aggravate their low self-worth. Your friend will have good days and bad days. Do not assume they're cured just because of a single good day.
Help them in finding Support for Depression
As much as you want to support your friend single-handedly, it can take a toll on you. Your friend might feel more at home discussing their feelings amongst people who have had similar experiences and can truly understand the depth of their problems.
A great option to accomplish this could be iAmEars. iAmEars is an online platform where people can express their feelings, emotions, and concerns unabashedly. They're provided complete anonymity so there is no breach of privacy. There are medical professionals and experts on the panel as well so that they can be referred for advice when required. Interaction with people going through the same problems can ease the pain and make a patient feel backed. Visit iAmEars to seek support.
Depression is a very difficult condition to go through but having a friend by your side is always a blessing. When you're trying to help, do not overpower. Instead, just being there for them on the bad days can go a long way. You need to make them feel supported and cared for. At no point should they feel cornered.
Kindness and empathy are what have helped humanity prospers over the centuries. Extend a helping hand towards someone you love so that they can overcome their hardships and embark on a journey towards recovery.