Depression is a complex mental illness that is much more than a short-lived sadness. Helplessness, discouragement, lethargy, self-criticism, being without initiative, isolation, feelings of hopelessness, sadness and guilt, loss of concentration, loss in sense of pleasure and interest, social isolation, low energy, change in appetite and weight… symptoms of depression and their intensity vary from person to person.
The term depression is often used incorrectly, i.e. to describe an instant bad mood. You can often hear some people complain that they are “depressed”, just because they got sad for a specific event or just woke up exhausted and with low energy. Depression is much more serious than many people imagine. It is a condition that you cannot get out of overnight and that is not over-weighed by encouraging pat on the back.
Depression concerns every aspect of a person’s life and even causes suffering among the closest ones. It is not easy to see a close person losing its interest in things that previously made them happy and feeding oneself pessimistic thoughts. If a close person suffers from depression, your involvement in the healing process can be crucial for a quick recovery.
Here’s how you can help a depressed person:
Accept the fact that depression is a serious illness and do not ignore it. Depression does not disappear by itself and you should accept it as a serious mental illness, and not as a temporary situation that time can heal. You should never approach with the attitude “No need to worry… last year I was also depressed for a few days, and it passed”, or “Stop with the self-pity, you are strong, it will pass, just do not think about it, time heals everything”.
Convince them that they need professional help. Many victims deny that they suffer from depression and refuse any professional help. Visiting a psychiatrist is generally accepted with great negativity, but you must insist. Do not forget that you are not a substitute for a psychiatrist. Explain the person you want to help that they deserve to feel better and that depression should be treated by a professional. Inform yourself- the more you know, the more you can help.
It’s important to understand the symptoms of depression, to get the idea of what exactly depressed people are going through. Inform yourself about the reasons that lead to depression, as well as the various treatments.
Be on their side and do not judge or criticize. People suffering from depression are often too strict with themselves, so if you want to help, do not give constructive criticism and do not point out their mistakes. That can reinforce self-critical thinking and reduce their self-esteem, which will only worsen the situation.
Listen, instead of burying someone with advice. If the person suffering from depression decides to start an open conversation, your job is to listen. Even if you listen to the same words for the hundredth time, be their shoulder to cry on and show compassion. It is very important that the person feels heard and to know that their feelings are important. Do not give advice such as “Just smile” or “Think positive”. Hold their hand and just be there for them; Listening and showing understanding, are a powerful tool in the healing process.
Save the optimistic attitude and do not support their pessimistic statements. Pessimistic thoughts are a symptom of depression, and you should not agree with the negative views of the person beside you. Save the real image and constantly stir hope that the situation will improve. Point out the positive things happening around them, because depressed people are prevented to see them for themselves. For a depressed person, the future is often seen as dark and empty. So, talk about the positive side of life.
Do not be afraid to ask if there are any suicidal thoughts.
The risk of suicide is higher among people who suffer from depression. If the person is severely depressed, carefully observe whether some signs indicate suicidal thoughts. Express your concern and ask them if they ever thought about hurting themselves. If something in their answer confirms your doubts, immediately seek professional help. Timing is crucial…
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