Depression is a common but serious mental health condition that affects a wide array of people, regardless of factors like age, race, or income level. About 17 percent of Americans struggle with depression and as many as six out of 10 adults in this country will experience at least one episode of depression in their lives.
Fortunately, there is treatment that can help. There are also signs to look for that could mean someone you know is suffering. By learning how to recognize these signs and symptoms early, you may be able to help someone in need. Even though you may not have clinical training, you can offer a listening ear, provide support and suggest resources, and encourage them to seek help.
Keep in mind that someone who experiences signs and symptoms of depression should seek medical help if their symptoms do not resolve within two weeks. If their symptoms are serious or include suicidal thoughts, they should seek treatment right away.
Many people who have depression learn to manage it effectively with time and treatment. Others may find it more difficult to manage their depression successfully and may require more support from family and friends. By noticing someone you care about when they’re suffering in silence, you can help, and by learning more about depression, its symptoms, and its treatments, you can earn trust as a friend, confidante, and advocate.
Recognizing the Signs
The signs of depression may vary from person to person, but some of the most common signs and symptoms of clinical depression include:
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Feeling anxious or restless
- Irritability or making angry outbursts
- Changes in appetite
- Insomnia or sleeping too much
- Thoughts of death or suicide
- Loss of interest in formerly enjoyed activities
- Withdrawal from friends and family
- Slowed thinking
- Difficulties with concentration
- Feelings of guilt and/or worthlessness
- Physical issues like headache or gastrointestinal complaints
If you recognize these signs and symptoms of depression in a loved one, it’s important to offer your support and encourage your loved one to talk to a mental healthcare provider as these symptoms are treatable.
How to Create a Safe Space for Others
You can create a safe space for friends and family, by being the type of person who expresses genuine care for their wellbeing. Make a habit of asking family and friends how they are or pointing out when you notice that they aren’t smiling as much. You can also create a home space that’s positive and welcoming, a place where your connections feel safe and able to talk. It’s also important that you let them know that you are discreet, that you can be trusted to keep their matters or concerns private.
How to Practice Active Listening Skills
Do you know how to be an active listener? Listening to someone who has depression can be helpful if you understand how to listen with empathy. But what precisely does it mean to be an active listener? Here are a few tips for how to listen to a friend or loved one when they’re depressed:
- Make eye contact so that your friend or loved one knows that you are paying attention to what they’re saying.
- Avoid performing other tasks while listening if you can.
- Try to avoid making interruptions.
- Avoid turning the focus of the conversation on yourself.
- Don’t rush your loved one to communicate; be sure to allow for pauses so they can formulate what they want to say to you.
- Ask questions in order to better understand if you need to. Avoid asking questions that could appear judgemental.
- Monitor your loved one’s non-verbal forms of communication too such as their body language and facial expressions.
You can demonstrate your support for your loved one through active listening. Let them know that you care about their situation by inviting them to talk about how they feel.
Destigmatizing and Encouraging Help
It’s important to encourage your loved one to seek help if their symptoms of depression stretch beyond a couple weeks or if their depression becomes more serious. Some people continue to have negative views about seeking mental healthcare and admitting that they may need help for a psychological problem.
Let your loved one know that one in five people develops a mental health or mood disorder and that mental health conditions are common but can also be effectively managed. The key to the successful management of clinical depression is treatment.
Remind your loved one that their benefits include treatment for mental health and that their health, mental health included, is protected. They do not have to alert their employers or fear that their insurer will notify their employer. An employer may only learn about an employee’s mental health condition if a hospitalization involving a long-term absence is required. In short, mental healthcare, like physical healthcare, is a private and protected matter. Even if your employer is aware of your mental health condition, they cannot–by law–terminate an employee over it or withhold promotion.
Tell your loved one that getting treatment for depression is commonplace today and that there are many forms of therapy and medication designed to reduce symptoms of depression and promote recovery. By assuring them that stigma is unhealthy, you may convince them to get the professional help they need.
Offering Practical Support
Consider ways that you can support your loved one that are practical in nature. For example, could you provide transportation so that your loved one can conveniently get to their therapy session? Can you spend time with your loved one so that they’re not alone should their symptoms become severe? Can you check in with your loved one to ensure that they are eating and that their symptoms are not worsening?
Talk to your loved one and ask them how you can provide practical assistance. Some people with depression struggle to perform some activities of daily life when their symptoms are severe. It may be helpful for you to help with meal preparation or shopping for groceries. Your support can be crucial if it comes at a time when your loved one’s symptoms are at their worst.
Check In Regularly
One one of the most important things you can do for your loved one is to check in with them regularly. Find out how they are doing. Call or stop by for a visit. Visiting in person is ideal because you’ll be able to witness more about them—if they’re taking care of their basic self-care needs and keeping up with household tasks. If they are not, it may be a sign that their symptoms are getting worse.
If your loved one has depression, FHE Health may be able to help. With treatment, many patients can achieve symptom relief and manage the condition successfully for the long term. Contact us today for a free consultation with one of our support counselors.