Ways to Support Depressed Individuals
Depression is a mood associated disorder that is characterized by low mood swings and a lack of interest in general activities. The most common types include; Clinical depression, Persistent depressive disorder and Bipolar disorder. Depression affects people of all ages from all walks of life. There are many causes of depression including childhood trauma, family history of depression, medical conditions (such as those causing chronic pain or insomnia) and drug or alcohol abuse.
Some signs of depression include feeling sad, anxious or hopeless, fatigue, disturbed sleep patterns, pessimism about life, irritability, lack of interest in usual hobbies, and thoughts of suicide. Is someone around you depressed? Here are ways you can assist a depressed individual:
- Listen to them
Empathy is vital for depressed individuals. Start by asking a few questions and sharing your concern. Resist giving unsolicited advice as this may make the individual close up. Instead engage with the person, friend or family member, by asking questions to get more information, validating their feelings and showing interest with your body language.
- Help them find support and stick to it
Listening to your friend or family member may make you aware that the person is dealing with depression. It is important to help the person to find help from licenced experts if they are open to it. Encouraging and supporting them to make the first appointment goes a long way in helping them get the support they need. On bad days the individual will need your help to stick to therapy appointments or even take prescribed medication. If they are having trouble with medication, encourage them to bring this up with their therapist who will switch them to a better drug.
- Learn about depression
You will have to research and learn about depression on your own in order to better help the individual experiencing it. It may be difficult for the person to explain what they are going through and depression also takes many forms that may be unrecognizable. By doing research and learning about it on your own you will be better equipped to care for them.
- Set boundaries and take care of yourself
It is easy to get fully consumed in a depressed individual’s life. It is thus important to set boundaries with the person. Offer help only when you can and not in the middle of your work-day or when you have a lot on your plate. It is also vital to make sure your mental state does not deteriorate because of spending endless time with a depressed individual. Ensure you know your limits and take the necessary time to recharge so that you can be of help to the individual without letting yourself go.
- Do not try and fix them
Depression is very serious and complex. You may get the urge to try and fix the person going through depression but unfortunately, your efforts will not do much. It is vital the individual seeks professional treatment from a licensed therapist. Experts advise not to say anything you would not say to a person with a physical condition to an individual with depression. Additionally, they recommend not giving advice unless directly asked to by the depressed individual.
- Do not compare the person’s experience
Every person’s depression is unique to them and it does not help to compare a person’s depression to another as it may bring about false hope, or make the person feel worse. Validating the individual’s pain and struggle while letting them know they can count on you is the best thing you can do for them.
Mental health resources can be acquired from Africa Mental Health Training and Research Foundation (AMHTRF) which provides counselling and psychotherapy services for individuals, couples and families and Befrienders Kenya where you can get free emotional support to those in danger of committing suicide.
Photo by Polina Zimmerman
*Photo by Madison Inouye