I know why you’re here and I’m glad you’ve found this post. Trying to figure out how to help someone with anxiety and depression is a heavy weight on your shoulders. Your friend or loved one is struggling with their mental health and understandably, you want to help them in any way you can.
I recently wrote a blog post about anxiety that you can read here if you’d like more information about the symptoms of anxiety. For today, we’ll focus more on spotting the signs of depression, and crucially, how to help someone with mental health issues.
Recognising the signs of depression
It goes without saying, 2020 has been a pretty tough year all round with the impact of COVID-19. We’ve all experienced feelings of anxiousness, upset and worry, and most probably the odd day feeling quite low and despairing. That’s only natural with the current state of the world.
But depression is another ballgame entirely, and without personal experience of depression, it can be extremely difficult to understand.
Everyone feels sad sometimes, but depression is an intense sadness that lasts for days, weeks, months or even years, if left untreated. People who suffer with depression often describe it as feeling heavy, like they’re walking through pea soup, or that they’re wearing a pair of glasses with dark grey lenses – they are completely zapped of optimism. People with depression often feel hopelessness, helplessness and worthlessness.
This is not an exhaustive list, as it can vary from person-to-person, but I’ve noted some of the main symptoms of depression below:
- Lack of energy and tiredness
- Difficulty focussing
- Difficulty sleeping
- Struggling to find pleasure in everyday activities
- Feeling anxious
- Feeling moody, irritable and tearful
- Major changes to eating habits
- Weight gain/loss
- Headaches and/or digestive problems
- Aches and pains
- Feeling empty or that life has no meaning
- Thinking about death or suicide.
You might notice that your friend or loved one is more withdrawn than usual, is easily overwhelmed or has irregular sleep habits. They may seem more disorganised than usual as they struggle to concentrate on completing a task. You may find that your friend or loved one attempts to self-medicate with drugs, alcohol or food in an attempt to cope with their depression.
Symptoms can vary depending on the time of day. Some people who suffer with depression say that mornings are the worst part of the day, when even the most basic tasks – getting out of bed and taking a shower, for example – are too much.
While for others, depression is seasonal; the symptoms may become more prevalent during the winter months, when there’s less daylight. For similar reasons, some sufferers report an increase in their symptoms in the evening.
How to help someone with mental health issues
Depression is a serious mental health condition which requires specialist help and support. When you’re faced with a friend or loved one in this situation, try to remember, it’s the illness talking, not the person.
I can understand how frustrating it can be for those of us who aren’t depressed, desperately wanting your loved one to feel better. However, I’m sure you’ll understand, comments such as, “look on the bright side”, or “it’s all in your head”, definitely won’t help and should be avoided.
Here are 5 ways how to help someone with anxiety and depression:
- Act in a crisis
If it’s a crisis – if your friend or loved one is talking about suicide, for example, don’t leave them alone, and call 111.
- Show the love
Your friend or loved one will likely be feeling low, worthless, unvalued and unloved, so tell them how much you love them, how much you care about them, and how important they are to you. Let them know they are not alone – that you want to help and that you are there for them.
If you’re living with someone suffering with depression, be sure to model healthy behaviours. For example, eat well, set good sleep habits, exercise regularly, get active and practise mindfulness. This will not only help to encourage your loved one to take care of themself, but it’ll help to ensure you take care of yourself too.
- Be patient
Be there to help when your loved one will let you. Gently try to include them and encourage them with healthy activities. For example, baking a new recipe together, gardening or even helping with the shopping. You might face a lot of rejection, but don’t stop asking.
- Seek professional help
Suggest your friend or loved one visits their GP – you could offer to go along with them to their appointment. Or contact us at Altum Health for a free, 20-minute consultation. You might offer to be part of your loved one’s treatment if they’d like you to be.
Knowing how to help someone with anxiety, depression or other mental health issues can be overwhelming. Depression can make it hard to connect on an emotional level and your friend or loved one’s behaviour may have changed quite dramatically. It’s hard not to take it personally.
It’s important not to put too much pressure on yourself or your loved one. You can’t be the one to ‘fix’ them, but you can be there for when they are ready to take responsibility for themselves and ask for professional help.
Depression is an illness that takes time to heal, so please continue to be loving, supportive and available to your friend or loved one until they’re ready to take those important steps to recovery. I know you’re only going to push hard for the people you really love; that’s why you’re here, seeking help and advice.
You may be interested to read my 10-Point Positivity Plan, which is a free resource that aims to help maintain positivity during these turbulent times. The plan contains 10 things that are scientifically proven to make us feel better, happier and able to cope with anxiety-making situations. Every Monday I’ll be sharing a different strategy from the plan live on Instagram at 8pm GMT. I also offer some practical steps that will support your mental health, boost your confidence and share good vibes with the people around you. Please do join me.
Take care and stay safe.
Dr Courtney x
If you or a loved one are struggling with anxiety, and would like to find out how we at Altum Health can help, please get in touch for a free, 20-minute consultation via Zoom.