Depression is a serious mental health condition that may affect anyone at some point in their life. It doesn’t discriminate and has no favorites. It can affect young and old people, and no one is really immune to its symptoms. However, depression can be treated, and friends and family can make a difference for those suffering from this disorder. But only if they educate themselves and understand the toll depression can have on the mental health of their loved ones.
How do you know if a friend is suffering from depression?
Depression can impact a person’s everyday life and cause sadness, pain, and tremendous suffering. While associated with numerous symptoms, at times, it may feel like an invisible cloud looming over a person without them even being aware of its presence. There are different types of depression and different symptoms that betray its presence in the life of someone you love. A person suffering from this condition may exhibit common warning signs like:
Loss of interest in everyday tasks
They have lost interest in their work, hobbies, or any activities that used to bring them joy.
They avoid spending time with friends or family and have withdrawn from social activities.
Constant feelings of sadness and hopelessness
They are feeling sad all the time and seem to have lost their hope or become critical or irritable and adopt a pessimistic attitude regarding life.
Changes in appetite
They eat more or less than usual, and you can notice a significant change in their weight.
Changes in their sleeping pattern
They either sleep more or less than usual and seem to always be disoriented, indecisive, and not really present anymore.
Increased alcohol consumption or substance abuse
They start to drink or rely on sleeping pills or painkillers to numb their pain.
While some people struggling with depression may exhibit symptoms like the ones mentioned above, others may simply feel unhappy or sad without any reason in particular. Children suffering from depression rarely manifest their depression through sadness and are more likely to exhibit it through irritability.
What you need to understand about depression
Depression is a serious mental health condition and not just a rough patch someone is going through. It will not eventually pass on its own. The person going through this experience has no control over their state of mind and mood, and their emotional health is severely affected by this disorder. They find it hard to fight it on their own and, most of the time, especially when dealing with clinical depression, they need therapy to understand what they are going through. It is not enough to make them aware of their condition for them to start the healing process. Depression often overcomes the force of will.
Persons dealing with depression cannot be held accountable for everything hurtful they might say. They are struggling with an avalanche of emotions and find it very hard to find anything positive around them. This can only lead to increased irritability and frustration, often materialized as criticism and anger. Try to understand where they are coming from and don’t hold this against them. They still love you and this is not about you. Don’t take it personally.
The same goes for persons suffering from depression who have no interest in going to work, doing their chores, or engaging in any social activities. You shouldn’t label them as lazy, and you should try to understand they can barely find the energy to get out of bed. Depression is often accompanied by feelings of extreme tiredness and lack of motivation.
What you shouldn’t do if you want to help a friend with depression?
Ignoring a friend with depression is never the way to go, nor is helping them hide their issue. This can only drag them deeper into an unhealthy pattern and “legitimize” their behavior stripping them of any intention to ask for help or discuss their problems with a therapist. The person suffering from this condition needs to get treatment as soon as possible to prevent their mental health concerns from getting worse and prolonging their dark times and even the risk of suicide.
A friend with depression is not a broken person in need of fixing. You do not need to come with a solution to their problems nor take upon yourself the burden of their depression. You cannot be responsible for a person’s happiness, thus you cannot consider yourself responsible for their depression either. What you can do is be there for them when they need support and love them. Finding the path to recovery from depression is a personal journey that only the person battling the condition can find and walk on.
What can you do if you want to help a friend with depression?
If you think your friend is suffering from depression, you can start by paying attention to common signs that may indicate this condition. Observe their behavior and see if you can notice any symptoms of depression. Keep an eye on their mood changes and notice if they complain of unexplained pains and aches, like back pains or headaches.
Be there for them when they ask for help but avoid telling them depression is not a real problem or that it is natural to feel sad at times and everyone is going through tough times. Avoid giving them advice or serving them cliches about how they should focus on the positive or that it is all in their head. This will only make them withdraw even more and avoid your presence.
Be compassionate and show you care about them and that their friendship is important. Depression is never someone’s fault and can’t be fixed overnight. Listen to everything the person has to tell you, and don’t make any judgments. Sometimes, listening to someone is enough to make them feel better and lighter.
Offer to help them with daily tasks and create a routine for them to feel more in control and at ease around you. Encourage them to respect their treatment, take their medication, and participate in meetings organized by support groups. Explain they are not alone in this journey and that you are going to be there for them every step of the way. Discuss the beneficial effects of eating healthier and spending time outdoors.
People with severe depression may contemplate suicide. You need to understand the suicide risk and be aware of the fact that it is possible for your friend to think about taking their own life. If you believe this to be true, act immediately and talk to them about your concern. Ask for help from a mental health professional and let their family and close friends know about the risk. Create a safe environment around them and make sure they don’t have medications or weapons at hand. If the risk for suicide is high, call 911 and do not leave the person on their own.