How to Help Loved Ones Who Suffer From Depression

Connect Healthy Tips How to Help Loved Ones Who Suffer From Depression

You probably know someone who struggles with depression. Depression affects an estimated one in 15 adults, and one in six people will experience depression at some point in their life.

Depression differs from sadness. You may feel sad when you lose a family member or friend, when you are having a hard time at your job, or when you experience a situation that otherwise influences your happiness. Depression, or major depression disorder, doesn’t just affect your mood. It affects how you feel, the way you think, and it can make you act in ways that aren’t natural for you.

Depression: What Are the Symptoms?

Depression symptoms can vary from mild to severe and can include:

  • Feeling sad or having a depressed mood
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed
  • Changes in appetite — weight loss or gain unrelated to dieting
  • Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Loss of energy or increased fatigue
  • Increase in purposeless physical activity (e.g., hand-wringing or pacing) or slowed movements and speech (actions observable by others)
  • Feeling worthless or guilty
  • Difficulty thinking, concentrating or making decisions
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

Symptoms must last at least two weeks for a diagnosis of depression.

While it’s scary enough for you to experience these feelings yourself, there is a different layer of fear and uncertainty when you see someone you love experience depression. You want to help, but you don’t know what to do or say. The first thing you may want to focus on is talking to them about their state of being.

Talk to Them

Begin by simply telling them why you’re worried. Explain behaviors or symptoms that you’ve seen them display. Maybe begin by saying, “I notice that you’ve stopped a hobby you used to love, and I’m worried about you.” Most importantly, let them know you care. Don’t try to fix them or tell them to “just be happy.”  Tell them why you’re concerned, that you care, and then let them talk.

Help Create a Positive Environment

Your loved one may be to a mental place where they find it hard to take care of themselves. Offer to bring healthy meals, go on walks, or schedule a daily phone call with them. If they take medication, make sure they’re taking it on schedule. If they’ll let you, do some chores around the house to make it a more inviting place for them to relax.

Encourage Outside Support

Chances are, you are not trained in dealing with depression. Both you and your loved one may not know what the next step is. That’s okay. You don’t have to know. There are trained professional who truly care about getting your friend or family member help. If your loved one has a primary care doctor that they trust, encourage them to make an appointment today (maybe while you sit with them) to let them know how they’ve been feeling. If they don’t have a doctor, or if they want more immediate help, there are several resources you can both contact. One is the Suicide Prevention Line at 1-800-273-TALK. Anyone who answers this number is a trained counselor who can listen and offer support.

Finally, be patient. Your loved one does not want to feel this way. Be there for them and let them know you care, and you will both be on a journey for better health.

Check Out These Books on Depression

The Health Information Center has more information about mental health and several good books you can check out.

The art of comforting : what to say and do for people in distress

There is no good card for this : what to say and do when life is scary, awful, and unfair to people you love

When someone you know has depression : words to say and things to do

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