Watching a friend or a family member suffer from depression can be very difficult. Patients who suffer from depression may experience symptoms of lethargy, apathy, crying spells, and a loss of interest in activities that they previously enjoyed. You might find that you are starting to feel helpless and hopeless too, as you don’t know what support you can offer.
First, make sure that you acknowledge the depression as an illness. Avoid asking the sufferer to pull themselves together and get on with life – if they could do this they wouldn’t be depressed. Try not to criticize when calls are not returned, invitations are ignored, the person is less fussy about personal hygiene than you expect. These are symptoms of the illness and not deliberate attempts to annoy or hurt you. Try to accept your friend or relative just as they are at this time, without pushing them to change.
If you do know someone suffering from depression, offering practical assistance might well be the best way you can help them. Depression can be overwhelming, making normal daily activities such as going to work, attending college or taking care of home feel impossible. Think about offering support in these areas. Sugget that you cook a meal, wash a load of laundry, or take the children to school and collect them at the end of the day. The removing of some perceived pressure on the depressed person can be a positive contribution to healing.
You might find that you can help your friend simply by listening. The strong emotions that come with depression can be overwhelming and difficult to deal with – it can really help to know that a friend is listening without passing judgment. Communicate to your loved one that you are supportive, no matter what feelings they are experiencing. If they are taking medication or attending therapy, you can encourage them to keep up with this treatment and remind them to take their medication according to the prescription, drive them to appointments if necessary, and offer whatever other practical help you can.
If their depression worsens, patients can be at risk of suicide. It is important to be aware of the warning signs. If your friend begins to talk more and more about death, starts giving away valued possessions, or begins to make plans for their home, pets, or children’s futures, they might be thinking about suicide. If you feel that your friend’s life is in danger, and they won’t admit to you that they need help, you should consider what to do next. You can let the person’s doctor know of your fears – by letter is best if you have time. In a crisis don’t forget that you can dial 999 and ask for an emergency response team.
A patient with severe long-term depression might need a referral for intensive medical care or therapy, either as an inpatient or as an outpatient, which can help that severely depressed person recover in privacy and safety. Psychiatrists and clinical psychologists have access to emergency medication, intensive therapy programmes, and the best possible tools for fighting depression. As a friend, it might be that the best help you can offer is getting your depressed friend on the path to the treatment that they need and deserve.
During all of this you will need to take very good care of yourself. The demands you will make on yourself and the demands made on you can be draining, exhausting, depressing. You might well need professional support. A qualified and experienced counsellor at Birmingham Counselling Services will be able offer you appropriate appointments so that you can keep yourself as emotionally healthy as you can. Get in touch via our website: www.BirminghamCounsellingServices.co.uk of by calling 0121 314 9903.