Many years ago a friend of mine rang up and said that she had been diagnosed with depression. Okay, I thought, she must be feeling a bit sad and lonely and life‘s a bit difficult for her right now.
A few days later we got together and I asked her how she was and that was it, the floodgates opened and she poured her heart out to me. It was in that moment that I realised that I had absolutely no idea of the enormity of her depression and I promised myself that when she left I would find out as much as I could to be able to help her.
Initially I thought that she just wanted me to be there all the time and to continually give her support but that’s not what she wanted. So the first lesson I learnt was to be approachable.
I tried to remember to ask her how I could help and ask her what did she want me to do. There were times when I found this quite hard as sometimes she just didn’t want me around and I felt hurt but I told myself that this wasn’t about me this was about her and I needed to recognise that she had a voice and sometimes she just wanted to throw herself on the sofa in her PJ‘s and watch box sets, alone!
It was a really difficult time (yes, for me as well as her - but in different ways, of course) because I didn’t want her to feel that I was abandoning her but I also didn’t want to be isolated myself whilst she dealt with her recovery. What I did was to connect with others but also continued to ask her whether she wanted to be involved and what she wanted. Gradually, after a long length of time, my friend began to reach out more and more and thanks to all the info that I was able to find I was able to support her as best I could.
So that’s my beginning and that’s my story, in brief of course, about my friend and her depression and how I tried to deal with my part in it all.
Then the other day another friend of mine rang and said that she had been diagnosed with depression. However this time, it was different for me as I had previously learnt so much and in between I had been through depression myself. It made me think about how I could share some of what I have learnt with you.
So, here are some suggestions and ideas on how you can help your family or friends:
Know which type of depression is involved
Find out about the different types of depression, and in particular the type that your family or friend has. These might help you to start...
Grief, loss and depression
Sad – winter depression
Bipolar Disorder – yes it does come under depression!
Research official websites such as www.mind.org.uk or www.nhs.uk or www.mentalhealth.org
Learn to recognise depression symptoms
You might want to check out the symptoms of depression which come under three different categories i.e. physical symptoms, psychological symptoms and social symptoms. There are quite a few in each category so I’ll leave you to check those out! Once again it is best to use official websites such as those mentioned earlier.
Understand the cause of the depression
It might be one thing or it might be a combination of things such as a stressful and anxious event or perhaps the persons living conditions, maybe a life changing incident has occurred, irrational beliefs can be a big factor or perhaps the person is lonely and isolated. Depression can even been passed down through genes.
There are different types of medication available, which you can discuss with the doctor
Following a healthy eating regime which suits the individual
Mindful practice is known to help with depression
Talking with family and friends or a counsellor
Joining a support group can be a great help
So how else can you help?
First of all you need to look after yourself. If you are living with somebody who is dealing with depression you may be finding it difficult to know what to do and where to turn. You might try approaching your local mental health team or find yourself a support group. Counselling can also help you to work through any difficult feelings that you may be having.
Find other ways to inform yourself about depression such as watching films or reading novels.
Use the Internet to discover facts and ideas as well as self help books. Try the library for books and they often have some really good resources. Some books you might consider are
"Girl Interrupted” by Susanna Kaysen
“The Bell Jar” by Sylvia Plath
“Its a kind of funny Story” by Ned Vizzini.
There are also movies which you can watch to inform yourself like:
You can also learn about how a healthy diet can help depression.This is particularly helpful if you live with the person dealing with depression as you can be on hand to help with meal plans and cooking. This is often a quiet role you can play which might not always be recognised but is certainly very helpful.
Here are a couple of websites you can explore...🍎
Healthy diet can boost mood and ease symptoms of depression – https://www.anxietycentre.com/anxiety/research/healthy-diet-can-boost-mood-and-ease-symptoms-of-depression.shtml
Diet and mental health – https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/a-to-z/d/diet-and-mental-health
So I think that I have given you quite a bit there to be getting on with. There is a whole world of information about the dark and lonely world of depression which you can explore and in the meantime it’s worth remembering to let your loved one know that you appreciate that they have a voice and let them know that they can approach you for support. You are doing your best and that’s all you can do.
If you need to talk or you know someone who does then reach out to those who care about you such as your friends and neighbours or make an appointment for counselling. You can do that by calling me on 07478754839.
My full contact details are here
Don’t struggle alone!