Over the course of 10 years since my diagnosis of bipolar disorder and manic depression, I have had many friends come in and out of my life. Many of them were exposed to my depression and the symptoms that it has. Some of theme helped me and supported me, some of them withdrew from me, but most of all of them wanted to help me in some way. It can be hard to know how to help a friend during these times, they can seem irrational, hopeless and stubborn, you may run out of things to say and feel awkward. But just being there for your friend is actually a huge help. So whether you have a friend, a relative, or a significant other here are ways you can help them.
Depression is a serious condition. Don’t underestimate the seriousness of depression. Depression drains a person’s energy, optimism, and motivation. Your depressed loved one can’t just “snap out of it” by sheer force of will.
· The symptoms of depression aren’t personal. Depression makes it difficult for a person to connect on a deep emotional level with anyone, even the people he or she loves most. In addition, depressed people often say hurtful things and lash out in anger. Remember that this is the depression talking, not your loved one, so try not to take it personally.
· Hiding the problem won’t make it go away. Don’t be an enabler. It doesn’t help anyone involved if you are making excuses, covering up the problem, or lying for a friend or family member who is depressed. In fact, this may keep the depressed person from seeking treatment.
· You can’t “fix” someone else’s depression. Don’t try to rescue your loved one from depression. It’s not up to you to fix the problem, nor can you. You’re not to blame for your loved one’s depression or responsible for his or her happiness (or lack thereof). Ultimately, recovery is in the hands of the depressed person.
Signs that your friend or family member may be depressed
· He or she doesn’t seem to care about anything anymore.
· He or she is uncharacteristically sad, irritable, short-tempered, critical, or moody.
· He or she has lost interest in work, sex, hobbies, and other pleasurable activities.
· He or she talks about feeling “helpless” or “hopeless.”
· He or she expresses a bleak or negative outlook on life.
· He or she frequently complains of aches and pains such as headaches, stomach problems, and back pain.
· He or she complains of feeling tired and drained all the time.
· He or she has withdrawn from friends, family, and other social activities.
· He or she is either sleeping less than usual or oversleeping.
· He or she is eating either more or less than usual, and has recently gained or lost weight.
· He or she has become indecisive, forgetful, disorganized, and “out of it.”
· He or she is drinking more or abusing drugs, including prescription sleeping pills and painkillers.
How to talk to a loved one about depression
Sometimes it is hard to know what to say when speaking to a loved one about depression. You might fear that if you bring up your worries he or she will get angry, feel insulted, or ignore your concerns. You may be unsure what questions to ask or how to be supportive.
If you don’t know where to start, the following suggestions may help. But remember that being a compassionate listener is much more important than giving advice. Encourage the depressed person to talk about his or her feelings, and be willing to listen without judgment. And don’t expect a single conversation to be the end of it. Depressed people tend to withdraw from others and isolate themselves. You may need to express your concern and willingness to listen over and over again. Be gentle, yet persistent.
Ways to start the conversation:
· I have been feeling concerned about you lately.
· Recently, I have noticed some differences in you and wondered how you are doing.
· I wanted to check in with you because you have seemed pretty down lately.
Questions you can ask:
· When did you begin feeling like this?
· Did something happen that made you start feeling this way?
· How can I best support you right now?
· Do you ever feel so bad that you don’t want to be anymore?
· Have you thought about getting help?
Remember, being supportive involves offering encouragement and hope. Very often, this is a matter of talking to the person in language that he or she will understand and respond to while in a depressed mind frame.
What you can say that helps:
· You are not alone in this. I’m here for you.
· You may not believe it now, but the way you’re feeling will change.
· I may not be able to understand exactly how you feel, but I care about you and want to help.
· When you want to give up, tell yourself you will hold of for just one more day, hour, minute — whatever you can manage.
· You are important to me. Your life is important to me.
· Tell me what I can do now to help you.
· It’s all in your head.
· We all go through times like this.
· Look on the bright side.
· You have so much to live for why do you want to die?
· I can’t do anything about your situation.
· Just snap out of it.
· What’s wrong with you?
· Shouldn’t you be better by now.