How to Deal with a Depressed Friend
Everybody experiences various levels of depression as a reaction to life stressors found in work environments, family life, and financial situations. Most people feel that depression is defined as this short reaction to the stressors that most people easily overcome. Thus, they believe it is insignificant. But, these instances of reactions to stressors is not classified as clinical depression.
Clinical depression is defined as a mood disorder in which feelings of sadness, loss, anger, or frustration interfere with everyday life for a longer period of time (Google definition). The unawareness of the general public about depression has resulted in many people suffering from this disorder failing to seek help. This is magnified in shame-based societies. Middle-Eastern communities are an example of a shame-based society, hence depression is hidden and overlooked in order to save “face” of the family.
Sometimes people that we know and care about might be depressed. There are many symptoms or tell-tale signs of clinical depression that we should be aware of. The following is a list of symptoms:
- Uncharacteristically sad, down, or “empty”
- Losing interest in activities that were once a source of pleasure
- Feeling hopeless, worthless, or both
- Feeling irritable or restless; becomes forgetful and disorganised
- Changes in appetite, and losing or gaining weight unintentionally
- Sleeping poorly or oversleeping
- Feeling tired or having less energy
- Having persistent feelings of guilt
- Having trouble thinking, concentrating, or making decisions
- Decreased capability and performance
- Having thoughts of suicide
- Abusing alcohol or drugs
- Exhibits a pessimistic outlook on life
- Constantly complains of aches and pains
Remember, a depressed person might not exhibit all of these symptoms. Usually a depressed person does not even realise that he is depressed. Then, if they do realise, many are ashamed to get help; they think that they should be able to get over it themselves. Therefore, seeking professional help is a must. But, in addition to professional help, a family member or close friend of the depressed can do the following things:
- Talk to the person: tell them that you can see they’re down. Therefore, pretending like nothing is wrong is not a solution and can make the situation worse.
- Listen with empathy; try to put yourself in their shoes, try to feel what they are feeling without judging them. Do not joke about their problem, or tell them simply: “Just be happy, dude!” “Lighten up brother.”
- Express your willingness to help: sometimes just knowing that people are there for you will help you get over many issues that you are facing. Along these lines, reminding them that Allah is always there as the best support.
- Suggest and support the person to see a professional psychologist
- Encourage the person to get enough sleep, exercise, and eat healthy food
- Help the person decrease alcohol and drug consumption; unfortunately drugs and alcohol have a worse effect on one who is depressed
- Encourage friends and family members to stay in touch with him and take him out
- Most importantly: Be Patient; depression is slow and unpredictable. It can be extremely frustrating when dealing with someone who is depressed. Do not show the person that you are angry; give them space when they need it; but always be there for them when they call. Be careful not to push too hard or constantly analyse them.
- Finally: take care of yourself; you need to be in a good state spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically to deal with someone facing depression.