Seeing a loved one depressed can make you feel helpless and frustrated because you want to help but you don’t know how. When someone is depressed, due to clinical depression, postpartum depression or winter blues, most of the time they want help but do not know where to begin. As a friend or family member, you can play a large role in their recovery by helping them acknowledge the problem and receive proper help.
Depression is the most treatable mental health issue. With the proper treatment and help from loved ones, depression can be overcome. Here are some things you can do if you suspect your friend or family member is depressed:
Know the symptoms. Symptoms of depression are different in South Asians than people from other cultures. For this reason, even physicians who are not aware of this may not recognize the symptoms in their patients either. Be aware of the common symptoms of depression in South Asians so you can recognize them in your loved one.
Reach out and ask how they are feeling. People who are depressed tend to withdraw, further exacerbating their depression. Reach out frequently and check in with your loved on to see how they are feeling.
Express concern. If you are worried that your friend or family member is depressed, express your concern in an empathic and loving way. Do not put blame on them as depression is not the person’s fault. Provide concrete examples of what is causing your concern. For example, “I am worried about you because you’ve looked very tired the last few times I have seen you and you have been complaining of headaches often. I’m concerned something is going on. Are you ok?”
Be careful with the advice you give. Unless you are a trained professional, giving advice to a friend or loved one who is depressed can negatively effect your relationship. This is because a lot of advice that is well-intentioned may sound minimizing to the depressed person. Avoid statements such as “You should just focus on the positive” or “Snap out of it”. Helpful advice can include offering resources to help your loved one treat the depression, such as contact for a physician or a mental health profession. Encouraging them to go outside for a walk with you is also helpful advice.
Listen without judgment. One of the best things that you can do for your loved one is to listen to what they are going through. You may not agree or be able to fully understand what they are experiencing but showing empathy and compassion can make the person who is feeling depressed feel loved and supported. This is key to beginning the recovery from depression.
Encourage healthy living. Depression and physical health are interconnected in that depression negatively affects your body which in turn exacerbates the depression. Help your loved one maintain healthy eating and sleeping patterns. Go with them on a walk outside to encourage some movement, which has shown to alleviate mild depressive symptoms.
Address suicidal thoughts immediately. Suicidal thoughts or plans must be taken seriously. Very rarely are these thoughts expressed solely to get attention. Know the signs and red flags and call a hospital or the police immediately to help your loved one stay safe.
Know you can’t fix it. As a loved one, it can be hurtful, sad and frustrating to see your friend or family member struggling emotionally. While you can be an excellent support and source of comfort, you cannot fix their depression no matter how much you want to. Focus on how you can help them instead of how you can fix it and your loved one will benefit the most from your relationship.
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