How To Support Someone In Treatment
You can still support a person even after they seek treatment for depression. If youre unsure how to help, you can ask them how they would like you to support them during this time. Depending upon their level of comfort, they may ask you to be a part of their treatment by attending therapy sessions or appointments. Other people may prefer to get help on their own but may ask you to call or check in with them.
If you think that you may be playing a role in the persons depression, you may even consider getting help yourself. For example, if you suffer from addiction, high levels of stress, or mental health issues yourself, you may not even realize that your own struggles can be impacting your loved one. If this is the case, you may benefit from counseling, therapy, or support groups.
The Risk Of Suicide Is Real
What to do in a crisis situation
If you believe your loved one is at an immediate risk for suicide, do NOT leave them alone.
In the U.S., dial 911 or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.
In other countries, call your countrys emergency services number or visit IASP to find a suicide prevention helpline.
It may be hard to believe that the person you know and love would ever consider something as drastic as suicide, but a depressed person may not see any other way out. Depression clouds judgment and distorts thinking, causing a normally rational person to believe that death is the only way to end the pain theyre feeling.
Since suicide is a very real danger when someone is depressed, its important to know the warning signs:
- Talking about suicide, dying, or harming oneself a preoccupation with death
- Expressing feelings of hopelessness or self-hate
- Acting in dangerous or self-destructive ways
- Getting affairs in order and saying goodbye
- Seeking out pills, weapons, or other lethal objects
- A sudden sense of calm after depression
If you think a friend or family member might be considering suicide, dont wait, talk to them about your concerns. Many people feel uncomfortable bringing up the topic but it is one of the best things you can do for someone who is thinking about suicide. Talking openly about suicidal thoughts and feelings can save a persons life, so speak up if youre concerned and seek professional help immediately!
How To Help Someone Who Is Depressed And Suicidal
Suicidal thoughts and feelings are sometimes a part of depression. If you recognize any warning signs of suicide in your loved one, you must take them seriously.
If you notice any warning signs of suicide, or if your loved one lets you know that theyre having suicidal thoughts, take appropriate action right away. Dont panic, and talk to the person about your concerns. Dont beat around the bush, and address the issue of suicide directly.
If its safe and appropriate to do so, let other people in your loved ones life know about your worries. Provide your loved one with the national suicide hotline number: 1-800-273-8255. You can also call this number yourself to ask for guidance about the best course of action for someone in your position.
If appropriate, help your loved one make a safety plan. Please help them remove any dangerous or sharp objects from their reach, including knives, firearms, ropes, and certain medications. Please encourage them to tell their medical provider or therapist about their suicidal thoughts.
Keep in mind that not all suicidal thoughts equal a crisis. For example, many people have passive thoughts about wanting to die but never make an action plan to end their lives. You can use the Columbia Protocol to ask your loved ones questions and determine if theyre going through a mental health crisis.
For more information about how to help someone who is suicidal, visit the Suicide Prevention Lifeline or call them at 1-800-273-8255.
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Dont Give Unsolicited Advice
Often, people with depression are flooded with tips and advice that they never asked for. For example, people might tell them to get outside more, take medication, or start exercising.
Although guidance from someone you trust can be an essential part of recovery for depression, it can also be confusing when everyone around you is offering different solutions. The advice can also make people feel like their feelings are a problem that needs to be fixed.
Try to stay away from advice unless its asked for. Your loved one may need someone to listen to them, not fix all their problems. Respect that your loved one is the expert on their own lives and that theyre capable of finding their solutions when theyre ready.
Of course, it may be necessary to intervene more directly if you feel like your loved one is a danger to themselves or others .
Discourage Drug And Alcohol Use
Some might feel inviting your loved one with depression out for a drink or two may cheer them up. You could think, Having a couple of drinks will help get their mind off things. Whats the harm?
The problem is that substance use and depression have a complex relationship and drinking or doing drugs often make depression worse. If youre looking for ideas on how to help someone who is depressed, inviting them out for a drink is the last thing you should do.
If you notice that your loved one has started using more drugs and alcohol than usual since their depression symptoms began, talk to them about it. Let them know that youre concerned, and offer to spend time with them in sober settings.
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What Is Samhsa’s National Helpline
SAMHSAs National Helpline, , or TTY: is a confidential, free, 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year, information service, in English and Spanish, for individuals and family members facing mental and/or substance use disorders. This service provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations. Callers can also order free publications and other information.
Also visit the online treatment locator.
Why Is It Important To Seek Therapy Promptly
Early treatment of depression is essential because depression itself changes the brain. Research shows that depression is linked to inflammatory changes in the brain. As a result of such changes, the longer an episode of depression lasts, the greater the likelihood of a recurrence of depression. Untreated, depression can become a progressive disease leading to neurodegeneration. Untreated depression especially compromises the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain essential for reasoning and decision-making and enabling control of emotional reactivity. Therapy helps patients develop the skills not just to beat back a current episode of depression but to prevent future ones as well.
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Assist With Finding Support
Making that first appointment with a therapist can be a big step, and just finding the therapist thats right for them can be pretty daunting.
If your friend seems interested in exploring the idea of therapy, help them take that first step.
It might involve searching through local therapists to see which one best suits. Maybe your friend needs help gathering their thoughts to bring them up during their appointment.
Searching for therapists is an easier job when its shared, and having a brainstorming session for points they want to discuss can be super helpful.
Things You Can Do To Help Someone With Depression
First of all, its important to understand they have an illness and cant just snap out of it’. If they havent already seen a doctor or other health professional about depression, encourage them to do so. It can help to have a diagnosis and to talk about treatment. You might need to help them make an appointment.
However, the person may not want to seek help. If so, it might help to explain why you are concerned and to offer them information, such as a book or fact sheets. If that doesnt work, then wait and try again later.
People with mental illness may face stigma. Try to listen to them without judgement – they need your support more than your advice.
Does Therapy Help In Ways That Medication Does Not
Many studies have evaluate the effects of psychotherapy vs. medications. Medication for depression may relieve symptoms more quickly than therapy, but the symptom relief lasts only as long as medication is taken. Therapy has enduring effects it not only relieves symptoms of a current episode of depression but reduces the risk of future episodes. Studies show that both types of treatment change the way the brain functions. Therapy gives people insight into how their own patterns of reactions to negative experience set off a downward spiral of thinking that lead to depression. It also fosters the development of coping skills that interrupt the chain of reactivity. Further, therapy restores a sense of control, something no medication can deliver. Perhaps most important, the bond that develops between patient and therapist becomes an instrument of support and recovery.
Support Your Loved One In Their Day
While starting treatment is a crucial component to managing depression, your loved one may still need help with their daily functioning. One good way to help may be offering to go to a therapy appointment with them to hear directly from their mental healthcare provider, says Michelle Riba, MD, a clinical professor of psychiatry and associate director of the Comprehensive Depression Center at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
You can also offer to help them with tasks that may feel overwhelming, like grocery shopping, laundry, or cleaning the house, or simply suggest you take a quick walk around the block together to get them out and about, Dr. Riba says.
Establishing a routine is also very helpful, says Thames. You might try to make that walk happen every day, for example. Regular physical activity can help ease stress and release endorphins and other neurotransmitters, or chemicals in the brain, that play a role in boosting mood, Thames says.
One form of treatment for depression is behavioral activation, which involves engaging in activities one find meaningful, such as doing an enjoyable form of exercise or volunteering, according to the Beck Institute for Cognitive Behavior Therapy in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania.
Encouraging your loved one to do activities that give them personal satisfaction is important but dont go overboard with activities and socializing, Thames cautions.
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How Can You Tell If Someone Is Dealing With Depression
Depression touches most Americans, whether they experience it personally or it affects someone they know. In fact, The National Institute of Mental Health reports its one of the most common mental health disorders in the United States an estimated 17.3 million adults were living with depression in 2017.
So how can you tell if a friend is just a bit sad or hassomething deeper brewing? There certainly are telltale signs, Dr. Borlandnotes. But since you dont necessarily see that person every day, you may haveto do more detective work.
He recommends watching for behavioral changes or anything that could be out of character for your friend. Some depression symptoms include:
- Lack of engagement:They lose interest in activities they used to enjoy or want to hang out less.
- Change in communication patterns: Youused to chat or hang on the regular, and now theyre MIA.
- Changes in hygiene and sleepingpatterns: Theyre sleeping less or all the time. Their appearance andhygiene no longer seem to be a priority.
- Displays of sadness or anger: Theirtemper now has a hairpin trigger, or maybe they seem more down than usual.
- Withdrawal from social outlets:Theyre missing from activities where they were formerly fixtures.
When Is Therapy Used In Conjunction With Medication
Because psychotherapy can take many weeks to months to have an effect, psychotherapy is frequently prescribed along with medication for people needing relief from severe depression, although less than a third of patients respond to the first drug theyre given. A new crop of medications for depressionall related to psychedelic drugsappears to open new neural pathways to recovery and is proving especially powerful when used in conjunction with intensive psychotherapy. One such drug, ketamine, is fast-acting and has been shown to reduce suicidal ideation administered intravenously, it is increasingly used for suicidal patients.
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What Does Behavioral Activation Do
Behavioral Activation is a short-term, evidence-based therapy that directly counters the avoidance patternsloss of interest in and withdrawal from once-enjoyed activitiesthat are hallmarks of depression. BA fosters engagement in rewarding activity as a lever to change the negative feelings and disturbed mood that make depression so oppressive. Perhaps best regarded as a small slice of CBT applied intensively, Behavioral Activation assigns to patients activities of their own choosingexercising, going out to donner, getting together with friends, tackling a choreknown to bring them some measure of pleasure or sense of achievement. With active guidance from a therapist, patients come to understand the vicious cycle of depression and the role of activity itself to sark motivation and energy.
Can Any Type Of Therapy Help
For patients, recovery from depression requires understanding the kinds of events that precipitate a depressive response, awareness of their own psychological vulnerabilities, identifying distorted thinking patterns that lead to feelings of hopelessness, recognizing behavior patterns that exacerbate problems, developing problem-solving skills, and taking action even when they may not feel like it. An experienced therapist will gauge the best way to treat depression based on individual patient needs but incorporate all such goals into their treatment plan. However, there are several types of psychotherapy that specifically target one or more of these needs through treatment protocols that have been well-validated by extensive field-testing.
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How You Can Help
It might seem small, but just doing things together, being there and staying connected can be a big help.
Depression and anxiety are so common that its highly likely that at some point youll know someone who might be experiencing it. It might be someone in your whnau, a team-mate or someone from your community. People with depression and anxiety are more likely to get through with help and support than on their own.Being depressed and anxious can be a really lonely experience. Sometimes the most important thing is having supportive people around or checking in. Having a coffee, watching television, phoning or texting to say Hi can help a lot. When youre feeling down, knowing that people are thinking of you can really lift your spirits.Often when people are feeling bad they dont want to go out and do anything. Everything feels just too hard. So encouraging them to do something with you is a great support. It could be something small like watching funny video clips, listening to music, going for a walk or window-shopping. Think about something you both like to do. There are different things you can do, depending on who youre trying to help:
Things To Remember About Depression
Depression isnt anyones fault
Its important to understand that your loved one cant help the way theyre feeling and its not their fault. Treating your loved one with compassion and understanding is incredibly important.
You cant flick a switch and cure depression
Unfortunately, theres no quick fix for depression and your loved one cant simply pull themselves together. It will take small steps for them to recover, and what helps one person will not necessarily help someone else.
Patience is invaluable
When youre suffering from depression, the thought of getting out of bed and going through the daily motions can be exhausting. However, this doesnt mean your loved one lacks the motivation to get better. Allow them to go at their own pace and comfort level, and support them where you can.
Depression is a serious but treatable condition
Your role here isnt to fix your loved ones depression. In most cases, it takes professional treatment from highly qualified people to overcome depression. The best thing you can do is be as supportive, compassionate and patient as possible.
Further reading on depression:
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Why Is Therapy Important For Treating Depression
From one perspective, depression can be seen as a state of depletion that occurs when problems overwhelm a persons resources for solution. Therapy aims directly at the development of new solution patterns. It is at least as effective as medication during the period of treatment but its effects last longer and it is effective in preventing recurrence of depression. The coping techniques, problem-solving skills, and understanding of ones own vulnerabilities gained during therapy are useful over the course of a lifetime.
Why Is Dealing With Depression So Difficult
Depression drains your energy, hope, and drive, making it difficult to take the steps that will help you to feel better. Sometimes, just thinking about the things you should do to feel better, like exercising or spending time with friends, can seem exhausting or impossible to put into action.
Its the Catch-22 of depression recovery: The things that help the most are the things that are the most difficult to do. There is a big difference, however, between something thats difficult and something thats impossible. While recovering from depression isnt quick or easy, you do have more control than you realizeeven if your depression is severe and stubbornly persistent. The key is to start small and build from there. You may not have much energy, but by drawing on all your reserves, you should have enough to take a walk around the block or pick up the phone to call a loved one, for example.
Taking the first step is always the hardest. But going for a walk or getting up and dancing to your favorite music, for example, is something you can do right now. And it can substantially boost your mood and energy for several hourslong enough to put a second recovery step into action, such as preparing a mood-boosting meal or arranging to meet an old friend. By taking the following small but positive steps day by day, youll soon lift the heavy fog of depression and find yourself feeling happier, healthier, and more hopeful again.