Extending Support and Providing Assurance Can Help Those With Depression

Depression can sometimes be portrayed as a deep but passing sadness. However, the National Institute of Mental Health warns that although depression is a common mood disorder, it is a serious one that can cause severe symptoms that impact every part of life.

Many people may have seen a loved one show symptoms of depression. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 5 percent of the global population experiences depression, which is about 280 million people.

Medications and other therapies are available and effective, but many people don’t receive the help they need. The WHO estimates that 75 percent of people with depression in low and middle-income countries do not receive any treatment.

Watching a loved one suffer with depression can be difficult. There are ways that people can help a friend or family member as they cope.

Recognizing the Signs of Depression

A depressive episode is more severe than typical mood fluctuations. Symptoms can include feeling hopeless, trouble sleeping, loss of energy, poor concentration, and feeling poorly about one’s self.

A person suffering from depression may have suicidal thoughts. They may no longer show interest in things that were once important to them. They may have trouble concentrating or have changes in appetite.

For some people, depression might be a “single episode,” meaning they go through a period of depression, but it doesn’t happen to them again. Other people have recurrent episodes in which they have to cope with depression at different times in their lives. Depression can also be chronic and something a person has to manage throughout their life.

Read More: How Depression Dulls the World—Literally

How to Help Someone with Depression

People with depression need support from family and friends. But that doesn’t mean they may always ask for help or even accept it.

“It can be very frustrating. It can set up emotions in the person who is trying to help,” says Susan J. Noonan, a physician and the author of Helping Others with Depression: Words to Say, Things to Do

Extend Support

The most important thing a person can do to help a person with depression is to provide support. Noonan says she understands that advice can sometimes sound vague.

“What does support mean? It means listen without judging or criticizing. Respond with empathy,” Noonan says.

Supporting also means having an understanding that the person dealing with depression may not have insight into their condition. They might not recognize they are showing symptoms of depression, and they might say things that sound drastic but feel very real to them.

“Accept what the person says is a valid feeling, even if it’s distorted or you disagree,” Noonan says. “That’s not the time to argue with them. If they say they feel a certain way or believe something, nod your head and say, ‘OK, I understand.’”

Provide Assurance

Avoid arguing with someone about their condition, but provide assurances. Noonan says that many people do not seek help for depression because they are concerned about being stigmatized for having a mental health need.

One strategy is to focus on the symptoms the person is showing, such as a lack of sleep, and how getting mental health help may enable them to feel better.

A person can also try to have their loved one articulate why they don’t want to seek help. Is it because of cost concerns? Are they worried about seeming like they are a failure?

“Once you know the reasons, you can address them with facts. There is a lot of misinformation on mental health treatment. You want to provide them with facts from reliable sources,” Noonan says. 

Follow Through

Noonan says it’s important to follow through when a person is trying to help a loved one. If, for example, a person offers to make the loved one an appointment with a primary care physician to get a referral or start a discussion about the symptoms, then they need to follow through. Make the appointment as promised, drive them and wait outside, help them organize referrals, or pick up prescriptions.

“If you make empty promises you can’t keep, that’s hurtful and makes the person feel abandoned or like you don’t care,” Noonan says.

Read More: How to Improve Your Mental Health

The Limits to Helping

Although a person may want to see their loved one get better, Noonan says it’s important to know that a person cannot be forced to receive treatment. Adults cannot be forced into treatment unless they are at risk of hurting themselves or they have articulated a desire to hurt someone else.

And for those who agree to treatment, privacy laws protect family members from knowing the clinician’s diagnosis or treatment plan. 

Noonan says that people participating in treatment should understand that it is not a quick fix. Medications might not be effective, or they may need to be adjusted, which means expectations need to be adjusted as well.

“Medications are only effective in two-thirds of people. It may need to be switched, which can take six to eight weeks,” Noonan says. 

Read More: What You Can Do About Seasonal Depression

Article Sources

Our writers at Discovermagazine.com use peer-reviewed studies and high-quality sources for our articles, and our editors review for scientific accuracy and editorial standards. Review the sources used below for this article:

Emilie Lucchesi has written for some of the country’s largest newspapers, including The New York Times, Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and an MA from DePaul University. She also holds a Ph.D. in communication from the University of Illinois-Chicago with an emphasis on media framing, message construction and stigma communication. Emilie has authored three nonfiction books. Her third, “A Light in the Dark: Surviving More Than Ted Bundy,” releases October 3, 2023 from Chicago Review Press and is co-authored with survivor Kathy Kleiner Rubin. Visit her website here: http://emilie-lucchesi.com/.

Source : Discovermagazine