Mental Health Awareness Week aims to address the fact that approximately one in ten people in the UK will, at some point in their life, experience depression. Mental Health Awareness Week aims to increase consciousness of and reduce the stigma surrounding mental health.
We are all waking up to the fact that mental health needs to be discussed openly. If you know someone who is struggling you may feel unable or unequipped to help or offer your support, causing feelings of powerlessness, frustration, confusion and anxiety. Helping someone to recognise symptoms and seek professional help involves trust, patience and understanding.
Depression isn’t the same for everyone and varies from person to person.
Indicators can include
- Becoming withdrawn
- Preferring to spend time alone
- Making excuses to not see friends
- Showing less interest in things that have previously been a source of joy
- Problems with concentration and focus
- Increased irritability
- Reduced sex drive
- Increase in anger or short temper
- Changes in sleeping habit
The list isn’t exhaustive and everyone can have bad days or a low period in their life. Depression isn’t feeling fed up or a bit down; depression is more than this and can carry on for weeks or months.
In Mental Health Awareness Week, encouraging a friend to visit their GP is a good place to start, if they don’t have a regular GP who they feel that they can talk to, a recommended and trusted therapist is another option worth seeking out.
Therapy is a process, it offers a safe space to talk, helps with understanding where problems come from and with developing strategies and tools for feeling better. Change doesn’t happen overnight and your support may be needed during the process. Therapy isn’t a quick fix, but it does work.
It’s worthwhile reading official NHS advice and MIND is a brilliant resource, both for those wanting to help and those suffering with depression.
This is the main thing you can do. Ask how you can help; there will be times when gentle encouragement to talk is needed and times when your friend needs solitude. You may need to remind them to take care of themselves, to eat well, exercise and get enough sleep.
Depression is very real and not something that someone can ‘snap out of’, in the same way you wouldn’t tell someone who has a broken ankle to go for a run.
The simplest way to help someone with mental health issues
It’s important not to pressure someone suffering from depression or make them feel inadequate. Ask them how they’re feeling, listen with empathy and encourage them to seek professional help, but understand that someone suffering from depression may not want to do this or even be able to.
Psychotherapy is a resource for helping those suffering from depression, so seek help if you or someone you know needs it.