The chances are that we all know someone with depression, whether we know it or not. Around 1 in 5 older people will be experiencing some sort of depression or mental health problem and women are more likely to seek treatment than men.
Depression is an illness. However it is impossible to tell whether someone has depression just by looking at them and often sufferers will choose to keep the illness to themselves due to fear of being stigmatised.
It may be that someone you love or care for deeply suffers from depression themselves and perhaps they have shared with you their feelings and diagnosis. If you have never experienced depression yourself it can be hard to know how to react or what to do to help them. So, how to support someone with depression? Below are just a few suggestions, which can help you to support your loved one.
Create a calm environment
To someone with depression, keeping on top of the routine chores can become overwhelming. Simple things such as keeping on top of washing and tidying can seem like a mammoth task and yet clutter or mess can create frustrations. Helping to keep on top of these things can be a big help in making them feel more relaxed and comfortable.
Depression can suppress the appetite, or it can cause the person to want to overeat and eat foods that are not providing the essential nutrients. Helping to prepare simple, healthy, balanced meals can help keep the body and mind as healthy as possible. Mood boosting foods such as seeds and nuts make good snacks.
I have deliberately not used the term exercise as the thought of physical activity can be very daunting to someone suffering with depression however being outside in the fresh air and sunshine, even if just sitting on a seat and reading can help lift the mood. Light exercise begins to release Serotonin and dopamine (or the ‘good mood’ hormones). Even a small amount of fresh air and exercise can help your loved on to feel a little better.
Speak to them
Talking to your loved one can help alleviate the feelings of loneliness that depressed people often feel. It may help them to tell you in their own words how they are feeling and help you gain a better understanding of their situation.
Encourage them to love themselves
Often when suffering from depression, people stop looking after themselves. Personal hygiene begins to suffer as they may feel worthless to others let alone themselves. Encourage them to care for themselves, run them a bath and help them to organise hair cuts, dental appointments which may make them feel more comfortable and confident.
A simple hug
A genuine hug lasting over 20 seconds can release feel good chemicals in the brain. Often depressed people lack desire for intimacy but a genuine hug can make them feel better.
Share a joke
Laughing released endorphins and watching a funny movie or comedian together or even just sharing a joke can help relieve the symptoms of depression or anxiety.
Reassure your loved one that you will not be scared away by their illness. Often there is a fear that those they love will leave them due to their illness, which makes the depression worse. Remind them of the good things they have accomplished and how much you love them as depression causes negative, painful and destructive thoughts.
Most of all remind them why you love them, remember the good times you have shared and reassure them that you can get through this together.