Talking About Depression

Despite its prevalence, depression still carries a stigma. When not treated, some people afflicted with this all-too-common disorder are completely crippled by it. Others, desperate to hold on, attempt to mask their symptoms and feelings, both from themselves and others. Depression, however, is insidious and eventually cracks through even the most hardened armor. 

Identifying Depression

People with depression tend to isolate, despite a longing to connect with those around them, both at home and at work. Often, co-workers can intuit depression in a colleague and want to help, but don’t know how to broach the topic. According to mental and emotional health non-profit, HelpGuide.org, depression’s symptoms vary from one individual to another, often masquerading as anger or apathy. This may make it harder to reach out to someone you know, particularly if that someone is outside of your family, such as a co-worker or friend.

Knowing what to look for is the first step. If you suspect depression, either in yourself or in someone else, HelpGuide identifies these as warning signs to look for: 

  •         Difficulty concentrating
  •         Difficulty completing easy tasks
  •         Feelings of hopelessness and helplessness
  •         Inability to control negative thinking
  •         A change in sleeping or eating patterns
  •         Irritability
  •         Loss of interest in day-to-day activities
  •         Physical aches and pains not related to a diagnosed condition
  •         Aggression or short-temperedness
  •         Increase in alcohol intake
  •         Self-harming, reckless behavior
  •         Despair and a feeling that life is not worth living (HelpGuide urges individuals feeling this way to seek help immediately) 

How to Help

If you think someone you know is experiencing depression, you may experience emotions ranging from anger to helplessness. You may want to help but not know what to say or do. No one can “fix” another person’s depression but there are ways to support them to get help and to get better. These include: 

  •         Trust your gut instinct. If you are concerned about suicide, do not leave the person alone and call 911 or emergency responders immediately  
  •         Let the person know you care about them and are there to listen
  •         Give encouragement and let them know there is hope
  •         Do not attempt to fix the problem by giving unsolicited advice
  •         Do not lie for the person or cover up their symptoms to others, as this may conversely enable their depression to fester
  •         Ask how you can help and provide support
  •         Let them know they are not alone
  •         Gently ask if the person has considered seeking professional support, such as seeing a therapist or talking to a minister: This is not the same as telling them to do so
  •         If the person is resistant to seeking out professional help, recommend a smaller step, such as a check-up with a general practitioner or school counselor, who might provide a bridge to treatment
  •         Offer to accompany them to their first appointment
  •         Remember to take care of yourself and take care not to become overwhelmed by the other person’s depression 

How to Seek Help      

As debilitating as it may feel, depression is a treatable disorder, which tens of thousands of people look back on as a past experience. It may be hard to reach out for help when you are in depression’s grip, but connecting with others and letting them know how you feel can be a very powerful, healing step. Reaching out to friends or co-workers can also support your recovery. 

  •         Turn to a person or people in your life you trust and let them know what you are going through, face-to-face if possible
  •         Don’t wait for the perfect time to talk, as it may never arise. The timing doesn’t matter nearly as much as your recovery does
  •         Expect to feel nervous when you initiate the conversation. It can be very scary reaching out for help
  •         Don’t worry about the words you use, you are not a therapist offering  up a clinical description
  •         Know that it’s OK to ask for help and support
  •         Ask your friend to listen compassionately rather than to try and fix the problem with advice
  •         If you are considering the support of a mental health professional, ask your friend to help you make the appointment and to go with you the first time
  •         Find a trusted companion to socialize with. Activities can be as simple as a walk in the park on a sunny day
  •         Never doubt for a second that you deserve recovery 

Depression is very, very common but unfortunately, so is ignoring its symptoms. If you suspect depression, either in yourself or in a friend, taking one first, simple step can be all it takes to starting a new, wonderful chapter in life.