Depression is one of the leading causes of disability globally. Aside from heart disease, it accounts for the most premature deaths. Studies even suggest that more people die to depression than to cancer and AIDS combined.
In South Africa, the national prevalence of major depression is 9.7%. However, some regional studies suggest prevalence rates of between 25% and 27%. So, with stats like these, it would not be surprising then if someone you cared about has or may become victim to depression.
And, herein lies a problem.
Not everyone knows how to help someone with depression. We know that we want to help. However, we are mindful not to give the wrong kind of aid. Sometimes, we may even make things worse. As examples, encouraging a depressed person to go out, or telling them "not to worry" or "things are not that bad" does more damage than good.
Depression can be a severe problem, and we must never underestimate its symptoms, and the struggle its victims endure.
To help, I've listed five tips to help you if you know someone who is depressed.
1. Educate yourself about depression
A depressed person does not feel sad. Instead, he or she thinks that his or her world is coming to an end and that he or she cannot get out of what feels like an existential vacuum of despair. Often they feel lonely, isolated and misunderstood, and more often than not have to fight hard to do things that we perform effortlessly, like eating, getting out of bed or taking a shower.
So, the first step to helping a depressed person is to learn more about the disorder. Read books. Use the Internet. Watch documentaries. What is depression? What are its symptoms? What treatments are available? These are good places to start.
2. Develop empathy
Although reading up about depression and educating oneself helps to get an idea of what depression may feel like, there’s a far deeper way to relate to a depressed person - Trying to be more empathetic. If like many individuals, you do not quite know what is meant by empathy, I recommend watching some movies on depression. Doing this will help you to put yourself in the shoes of the depressed person.
The goal of empathy is to understand the reasons and path that led the depressed person to this low point of his life. Remember, everyone reacts differently to situations, so you should not think about how we would react but rather to the way in which individual events have influenced this person. Only if we can understand his or her point of view can we truly offer our help.
3. Find the right time to get close
Relevance and timing are everything. Giving the best advice at the wrong time is likely to fall on deaf ears. So, carefully choose when you talk to the depressed person, making sure it is at a time when he or she may be open to communication. Also, opt for a quiet place where no one will disturb you.
It is worth noting that often these "moments of emotional connection" arise spontaneously on their own. Your task is to pay attention and to take advantage when the moment arises.
4. Focus on the other person, not yourself
Often, we incorrectly think that what is best for us is also best for others. However, if we want to help someone with depression, we must get rid of our ego focusing instead on the other. Ask him or her what he or she needs, what can you do to help.
Adopting this perspective shows that you understand the person and respect his or her decisions. Also, remember that one of your primary goals is to establish a suitable communication channel because in so doing, the other person may feel comfortable to talk about their problems and needs.
5. Learn to listen
Sometimes silence can be uncomfortable, but in most cases saying something irrelevant or meaningless can be much worse. Usually, depressed people do not talk much, but sometimes they also need to let off steam. In fact, research shows that when we talk about our problems we not only feel better but also discover new perspectives on the problem, which we may not have been aware of before.
In a world where everyone is self-absorbed with his or her problems, learning to listen is a skill that is in danger of extinction. However, together with empathy, it is also indispensable if you want to help someone who has a mental health problem such as depression.
Will you help me to share this article? My intention in writing it has been to give you objective, practical, interesting and useful information that will assist in some aspect of your life. By sharing this blog post, you could help another person feel better, solve a problem or simply refocus their lives.