How to Help Someone with Depression
Millions of Americans struggle with depression. In fact, more than 16 million are diagnosed with major depressive disorder. Sometimes depression is situational, such as with the loss of a loved one, but other times a person may not know why he or she is depressed. There is a genetic component of depression, and people are also more likely to experience depression if they faced childhood abuse or trauma. If your friend or loved one is suffering from depression isn’t always easy. These tips will help.
- Familiarize yourself with the symptoms of depression. Someone who is depressed may feel extreme sadness or melancholy, feel hopeless and helpless, believe they are worthless and have low self-esteem. They may have trouble sleeping or alternatively sleep too much, not wanting to get out of bed. They may experience appetite and weight changes, either feeling too depressed to eat or wanting to eat more in order to cope with their feelings. He may stop socializing and prefer to isolate himself. She might no longer be interested in activities she once enjoyed. The depressed person may have an unkempt appearance, no longer caring about how they look or taking care of themselves. They may harm themselves (such as cutting) and have thoughts of suicide. Additionally, they may turn to drug and alcohol use to escape from their negative emotions.
- Voice your concerns. Tell your friend or relative that you’re concerned they may be depressed. Gently tell them the difference you see in them that may indicate depression. Let them talk about their feelings and what is going on in their lives. Let them know that you support them and encourage them to talk to a doctor, at least to rule out any physical causes for their depression. There is still some societal stigma about therapy and antidepressant medications, so your friend may feel resistant. Tell them that this is normal and feeling depressed and needing help doesn’t reflect poorly on them at all.
- Don’t blame the depressed person, minimize their feelings, or tell them to snap out of it. Depression isn’t a choice. It is a serious medical condition. MRIs have found that there are actual changes in the brain of people who are depressed. Blaming them for their feelings will make them feel even worse about themselves, and minimizing their emotions will make them shut down and not feel safe opening up to you anymore.
- Help with everyday things. Being depressed makes life itself feel overwhelming. Offer to help the depressed person with errands and chores like grocery shopping and doing laundry.
- Get help. You can’t help your depressed loved one by yourself. Gather a group of supportive friends and family members who can check in on the depressed person and help out with daily tasks. You should also encourage the depressed person to go to therapy and speak to their doctor about medication. Don’t try to solve the depressed person’s problems on your own -- they need a professional.
- Let the depressed person know that you’re there for them. Use compassionate, understanding language. Say things like “I’m here for you” and “you are not alone.” Ask directly how you can help.
- Take care of yourself. Caring for someone who is depressed can be overwhelming. The depressed person may seem ungrateful or not to like you. Know that it has nothing to do with you; it’s just that he is so depressed that he has trouble connecting with others at this time. It’s important to set aside time for yourself to do things that you enjoy.
- Know the warning signs for suicide. You may find that a suicidal person has internet search history related to how to kill themselves. He may talk about being in unbearable emotional pain, feeling like he is a burden on others, and saying that the world may be better off without him. If he’s been isolating himself but suddenly starts making plans to see friends and family, it may not be because he’s over the depression but rather is because he wants one last goodbye. He may start giving away his possessions. Take all suicide threats seriously. Remove all weapons and medications from the house. If your friend is threatening to commit suicide, call 911 and don’t leave her alone.