Make Getting To That First Appointment As Easy As Possible
You alone cannot fix this problem, no matter how patient and loving you are. A severely depressed friend needs professional assistance from a psychologist, psychiatrist, social worker or another medical professional.
Yeah, you know. Youve told your boyfriend this, but its been months or maybe even years and he still has not set anything up.
You cant control someone elses recovery, said Kimberly Williams, president and chief executive of theMental Health Association of New York City. But you can try to make getting to that first appointment as easy as possible.
That might mean sitting next to your friend as he calls to make the appointment, finding counseling that he can afford, or even going with him that first time, if youre comfortable with it.
What if youre not sure whether you should start with a therapist or a psychiatrist, or whether youve found the perfect person? Ask around for recommendations, and know that one practitioner may ultimately lead to another.
But dont overthink it. The key initially is just getting a professional involved so you are not the only person managing this situation.
What To Say When Someone Is Depressed Or Anxious
You could start the conversation by asking questions such as: It seems like things have been hard for you lately. Whats on your mind? and: What can I do to help?
Something Ive learnt is to ask sincere, open-ended questions like, How does this feel? So the other person can feel supported, comforted and safe, rather than being told what to do. ayrc_1904
When you want to bring up a sensitive issue with a friend, try to choose a time and place when youre both comfortable, relaxed and theres some privacy. Dont push them if they dont want to talk, and be there for them if they become upset. You might not have an answer or a solution, but just being there to listen can be super helpful.
It might be difficult for your friend to accept your help continue to check in with them and let them know that you care about them, and that youre there for them if they need you.
What To Do If A Spouse Is Depressed
If theres depression in your marriage, its time to actfor your partner and yourself, Walfish says. Waiting increases the chances that your relationship wont last couples where one or both partners are depressed are significantly more likely to divorce than couples who arent depressed, according to a study published in BMC Public Health. And trying to fight or make peace with this often misunderstood illness on your own raises risks for both of you. The longer a non-depressed spouse lives with a depressed partner, the higher his or her own risks for depression, the researchers found. The deeper a depressed spouse sinks, the tougher it may be to finally treat the depressionand the greater the risk for alcoholism, drug abuse, violence, and even suicide, according to the Department of Health and Human Services . The stakes are high, but the odds are that things will improve.
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How To Help Someone With Depression
Dr. Borland recommends some dos and donts to get the conversation going:
Do: Practice assertive communication
Rather than making depression taboo, talk openly with yourfriend about your concerns. Dr. Borland recommends cultivating the art ofassertive communication: You take ownership of your feelings and concerns andcommunicate them without finger-pointing. And you listen and provide yourfriend with unconditional emotional support.
To do this, practice using Istatements. Begin sentences with, Im worried, Im concerned or Ive noticed.Then explain your concerns to your friend, he suggests. Avoid saying, Youdont seem like yourself, or You havent been hanging out as much as youusually do. They can create defensiveness in the person receiving the message.
Do: Show empathy
Put yourself in your friends shoes in a nonjudgmentalway. Think about how you would feel if you were coping with symptoms ofdepression and how you would want friends to react. Maintain eye contact whenlistening, and say things like, That sounds hard. Im sorry you are goingthrough this, and Im always here for you.
And if youve dealt with depression yourself, self-disclosure can be very powerful, Dr. Borland points out. Youre giving your friend a gift by opening yourself up and sharing that you understand.
Do: Set boundaries
Do: Be patient
Dont: Think you can fix it
Dont: Give up
But what if your friend rejects your efforts even when youvedone all the right things?
Understand You Arent A Therapist
Its important to encourage a depressed friend to seek qualified help. You cant cure your friend by talking things out or giving great advice major depression needs to be addressed by someone with professional training, who can prescribe antidepressants if appropriate. Dont think that you can manage their symptoms on your own, says Dr. Bates. Just be there in a supportive, nonjudgmental way.
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Remember People Do Recover From Depression
It can be hard when youre in the middle of the storm with a depressed friend to remember that there was a time before, and hopefully an after, this miserable state. But its essential to remind yourself and the person youre trying to help that people do emerge from depression. Because they do.
I have seen it.Every single one of the experts quoted here has seen it, too. But it will take patience and time.
Take Care Of Yourself
When you care about someone whos living with depression, its tempting to drop everything to be by their side and support them. Its not wrong to want to help a friend, but its also important to take care of your own needs.
If you put all your energy into supporting your friend, youll have very little left for yourself. And if youre feeling burned out or frustrated, you wont be much help to your friend.
Setting boundaries can help. For example, you might let your friend know youre available to talk after you get home from work, but not before then.
If youre concerned about them feeling like they cant reach you, offer to help them come up with a contingency plan if they need you during your work day. This might involve finding a hotline they can call or coming up with a code word they can text you if theyre in a crisis.
You might offer to stop by every other day or bring a meal twice a week, instead of trying to help every day. Involving other friends can help create a bigger support network.
Spending a lot of time with a loved one who has depression can take an emotional toll. Know your limits around difficult emotions, and make sure you take time to recharge.
If you need to let your friend know you wont be available for a while, you might say something like, I cant talk until X time. Can I check in with you then?
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How To Help When They Have A High Suicide Risk
Someone with an immediate suicide risk may need more help than you can provide.
If your friend has a plan for suicide, access to what theyd need to carry it out, and a specific timeframe, youll want to support them by getting professional help right away.
If you believe your friend is at immediate risk of self-harm or suicide:
- Encourage them to reach out to the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 or text HOME to 741741.
- If needed, call 911 or your local emergency number. If possible, you may want to take them to an emergency room or encourage them to go.
- Stay with them or on the phone until help arrives. If in person, remove any weapons or substances from their surroundings that could cause harm.
That said, the strategies below can help you offer support while you wait for professional help.
Taking Care Of Yourself Too
One of the key parts of helping a depressed friend is to be sympathetic but not empathetic. Dr. Saltz says, You want your friend to know that you understand that he feels bad without allowing the depression itself to pull you in.
When supporting a friend with depression, try not to take what they say or do personally. Understand that their actions or reactions to your kindness may be influenced by the depression itself. Dr. Leaf says, Rather than seeing the situation as this person is attacking me and how can they do this after all I have done for them!, realize that the other persons thoughts and actions may be distorted because of what they are going through.
If possible, dont go it alone. Supporting a person with depression can be very draining so its best not to have one sole caregiver. If you feel overwhelmed or that your friend is too reliant on you, resist the urge to abandon them. Instead, enlist the help of their friends and family to create a support system they can reach out to. Also, a dont take it upon yourself to act as their therapist. Friendship is important but it is not a substitute for professional help.
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Avoid Judgment And Blame
If someone you love is depressed and no longer able to do the activities they used to, including working or helping around the house, you may feel like they are lazy. When you get frustrated, try to remember that someone who is depressed isn’t lazythey’re ill. Everyday activities like cleaning the house, paying bills, or feeding the dog may seem overwhelming, if not impossible, to someone who is depressed.
If your loved one’s responsibilities around the house are piling up, you may not be able to take them on yourself.
In addition to resisting the urge to blame your loved one, try not to blame yourself either. Know that it’s OK if you need to ask for help.
Most Common Depression Diagnosis Scales
Some of the most popular scales used to help clinicians diagnose depression include:
- Beck Depression Inventory
- Clinically Useful Depression Outcome Scale
- Geriatric Depression Scale
- Patient Health Questionnaire-9 and adolescent PHQ-9
- Plutchik-Van Praag Self-Report Depression Scale
- Quick Inventory of Depressive Symptomatology
- Rome Depression Inventory
- Zung Self-Rating Depression Scales
Some scales, such as the Beck Depression Inventory, are copyright protected and not available outside of a doctors office or mental health clinic . There are inventories, scales, and questionnaires that are in the public domain and, therefore, more accessible.
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Offer Assistance With Daily Tasks
Depression can make everyday tasks, like driving and grocery shopping, feel impossible. Ask your loved one how you can help in small ways:
- Help schedule appointments
- Provide a ride to and from appointments
- Grocery shop and do other tasks with your friend
- Offer to take walks together a few times a week
- Ask if you can help around the house
- Offer to go watch movies or get out of the house together
Tips For Overcoming Depression
Depression can feel impossible. You donât have to give in to depression and think that things wonât get better. Instead, use these tips to improve your outlook:
- Get help from a mental health professional.
- Maintain activities that you once enjoyed.
- Keep up with friends and family members by talking regularly.
- Get some exercise, even if you just go for a short walk.
- Keep a routine of getting enough sleep and maintaining a healthy diet.
- Adjust your expectations so you can cope with depression.
- Donât drink or do drugs as a way of treating your depression.â
- Search for local depression resources.
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Don’t Minimize What They’re Going Through
Don’t tell them there are starving children in Africa, and don’t tell them you know exactly how they feel.
Even if you’ve had firsthand experience with depression, everyone’s experience is different. Thus, stick with empathizing rather than identifying . It can help to share your own experience, but make sure they’re aware you’re not implying it’s the same situation. Similarly, don’t minimize what they’re going through by telling them things like “It could be worse,” or “Come on, things aren’t that bad. At least you have your job/ family/ health, etc.” That will just lead to their feeling misunderstood, frustrated, and ashamed.
How Do You Know If Your Friend Is Going Through A Tough Time
Sometimes its hard to know the difference between the regular ups and downs of life, and mental health concerns like depression and anxiety. Someone experiencing mental health concerns might feel ashamed, and worried about how their friends might react if they talk about it.
Not everyone experiences depression or anxiety in the same way, and symptoms can vary however, there are changes in the way a person going through a tough time acts that you can look out for. If your friend is experiencing depression, they might:
- seem down or tearful a lot of the time, or cranky more often
- stay up really late or sleep in a lot, or have problems with sleep
- miss a lot of school, work or their regular activities
- miss hangouts or often cancel at the last minute
- eat more or less than usual
- drink alcohol or take drugs more than usual
- talk about feeling empty, tired or worthless
- seem more pessimistic and hopeless, and like they have less energy in general.
If your friend is experiencing anxiety, they might:
- be obsessed with details, such as being a perfectionist or wanting to plan things out thoroughly
- have difficulty making decisions
- avoid new people, situations or unfamiliar places
- have trouble keeping to schedules or plans
- seem disinterested, forgetful, distracted or scattered
- have digestive issues
- have a need to reassurance about how you feel, whether plans make sense, triple checking times
- have difficulty sleeping
Learn more about what anxiety is and how to recognise the symptoms.
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Its Ok To Ask If She Is Having Suicidal Thoughts
Lots of people struggle with depression without ever considering suicide. But depression is often a factor.
Although you may worry that asking, Are you thinking about killing yourself? will insult someone youre trying to help or worse, encourage her to go in that direction experts say the opposite is true.
Its important to know you cant trigger suicidal thinking just by asking about it,said Allen Doederlein, the executive vice president of external affairs at the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance.
If the answer is yes, its crucial that you calmly ask when and how its much easier to help prevent a friend from hurting herself if you know the specifics.
When Good Intentions Go Wrong
It’s possible that you can say all the “right” things and your friend will still become upset with you. Every person is an individual with unique thoughts and feelings, and being angry and upset is the nature of depression.
Sometimes people will lash out at those trying to help them because they are hurting and don’t know where to direct those bad feelings. Whoever is nearby becomes a convenient target.
If this happens, try not to take it personally. Stay calm and continue to do what you can to love and support your friend in whatever way they will allow.
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How Should You Ask If Someone Is Depressed What Should You Say
The wrong way to start the conversation is by focusing vaguely on how the person seems emotionally, which can sound accusatory, such as: Youve been so down/stressed/anxious/irritable lately whats going on? Are you okay?
Open-ended questions are better, experts say, such as:How are you doing lately?Are you struggling with anything? Can I help you?You just dont seem like yourself lately. Is everything okay?
Focus on specific behaviors so your friend doesnt feel judged, says Valerie Cordero, co-executive director of Families for Depression Awareness. You want to try as much as possible to not put them on the defensive, and give them an opportunity to respond.
Examples include:You used to love our nights out, but it seems like youre not interested in coming anymore. Is something going on? Do you want to talk about it?
I know you got a raise recently, which probably came with a bunch of new responsibilities, and Ive noticed you seem stressed out. Do you think you might be depressed?
See what your friend is willing to share. If they dont want to talk about it, or if they brush you off, just say, Im here for you, and move on to another topic.
Portrait of a Girl,
How Do I Know Which Type I Have
If you think you might have any type of depression, its important to follow up with a doctor. All depression types discussed in this article are treatable, though it might take some time to find the right treatment for you.
If youve had a previous episode of depression and think it may be happening again, see a therapist or another mental health professional right away.
If youve never had depression before, start with a primary care physician. Some symptoms of depression can be related to an underlying physical condition that should be addressed.
Try to give your doctor as much information about your symptoms as you can. If possible, mention:
- when you first noticed the symptoms
- how theyve affected your daily life
- any other mental health conditions you have
- any information about a history of mental illness in your family
- all prescription and over-the-counter medications you take, including supplements and herbs
It might feel uncomfortable, but try to tell your doctor everything. This will help them give you a more accurate diagnosis and refer you to the right type of mental health professional.
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