If someone close to you suffers from depression, you can help

If someone close to you suffers from depression, you can help

Depression is a disorder that affects each person dealing with it differently. That is why depression is so difficult and confusing for someone from the outside looking in to understand.

Those who experience depression view everyday life activities differently than most people. Everything from getting up out of bed in the morning to socializing with others can pose a challenge for someone who is affected by depression.

Depression is a mood disorder that is characterized by feelings of sadness, hopelessness, indifference, and demotivation. Many people have had their lives turned upside down as a result of depression.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, Major Depressive Disorder affects 6.7 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older. Of the many types of anxiety disorders, Major Depressive Disorder is the most common, with approximately 14.8 million American adults affected each year.

The Feeling of Nothing

Those going through depression may or may not know why they are experiencing the feelings of worthlessness that do not seem to leave their mind. Depression can sometimes be caused by a devastating, major life event, such as: someone close to the person passing away, being fired from a job, gaining weight, or going through a divorce.

Some people who are seriously affected by depression have no idea why they feel the way that they do. Depression may not necessarily be the result of a serious life event. The one thing that they know for certain is that they cannot view life in the same positive light as everyone else around them.

In either case, this downheartedness can become destructive when it interferes with the person’s ability to participate in daily activities, such being able to go to work, eat, and sleep.

Helping in an Appropriate Way

When someone you love is going through depression, it can be difficult to find appropriate ways to react to their mental illness. It is important to remember that your loved one’s feelings of sadness are something that they are not trying to purposely bring upon themselves.

“Whilst we can’t change a person’s family history or their life experiences, it is possible to help a person change the way they think and to teach them positive coping strategies that can mitigate and reduce stress levels,” said Professor Peter Kinderman, head psychologist at the University at Liverpool.

Recently, in October 2013, Kinderman led the largest depression study of its kind in the UK, which surveyed 32,000 participants. The study found that traumatic life events are the leading cause of depression.

Showing Your Support

Helping someone with depression is almost never an easy task, but at the very least, you can show him or her that you are supportive. Remember that your loved one may not always be up for talking about their feelings.

Offer a listening ear in case they do want to open up about what has them feeling down. Being genuine and saying something along the lines of, “I’m here for you,” or “This must be really hard for you, but if you want to talk, I’ll listen,” sends your loved one a helpful message of support that they need during this difficult time in their life.

If they don’t want to talk, try not to pressure them to open up, because it is likely that they will feel incapable of doing so while they are in a depressed state of mind.

Try your best to help your loved one think positively about their situation, but keep in mind that their depression may not allow them to instantly obtain an optimistic attitude, especially just because another person tells them that they should. However, knowing that someone cares about them may be the encouragement that they need to get through another day, especially if they are feeling like they do not have much to live for right now.

A simple phone call or text message telling them that you are there for them and thinking about them can make a big difference in the life of someone who is suffering from depression.

It’s important to consider that there are times when you should step in and help this person, and there are also times that it is better to pull away. Many people who are suffering from depression do not want to become engaged in much social interaction with others, so putting them in any sort of uncomfortable situation may cause them to push you away.

Try to put yourself in their shoes as much as possible, and remember that they are in a different state of mind than the average person at the moment. A healthy dose of human interaction and support from loved ones, however, is an imperative step toward helping this person get better.

Helping Them Get Help

Talking to your loved one’s doctor can be helpful if you are concerned about their behavior. If they are at the point where they cannot function or participate in their daily activities such as going to work, there are many medications available to those suffering from serious depression. There are other coping methods if they want to avoid medication.

Physical activity has proven to be an effective way of dealing with many types of mental illness. Engaging in any sort of activity with your loved one is another way to show you care, and it will help them both physically and mentally. Taking walks together, going to the gym, or getting your loved one out of the house in general will be a step in the right direction.

Activities that encourage your loved one to become active mentally have also proven to be helpful. Try suggesting writing in a journal, drawing, or finding other creative pursuits and hobbies that might encourage your loved one to focus on something other than their feelings of hopelessness.

Speaking to a therapist has proven to be beneficial for many of those suffering from mental illness. The key is finding the right therapist. There are many resources available online that can help match him or her with the right person. Try searching the ADAA’s “Find a Therapist” search engine at www.adaa.org/netforum/findatherapist or the National Suicide Prevention Hotline’s “Therapist Finder” at www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/learn/therapy.aspx.

If your loved one is expressing suicidal thoughts or tendencies, it is imperative that you take action, no matter the circumstances. Do not leave the person alone, and call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. Stepping in at this point could make the difference that saves this person’s life.

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