10 March 2004

When a friend or family member is depressed

Are you worried that someone you know might be depressed? Wonder why they can’t just snap out of it? He/she may need professional help.

Are you worried that someone you know might be depressed? Wonder why they can’t just snap out of it? He/she may need professional help.

Everyone feels “down in the dumps” from time to time. But when the “down” times are long lasting or interfere with an individual’s ability to function at home and at work, that person may be suffering from depression.

Clinical depression affects mood, mind, body and behaviour. According to the Depression and Anxiety Support Group, research has shown that five to six percent of the population will develop a depressive disorder during the course of their lives. Nearly two thirds do not get the help they require. Treatment can alleviate the symptoms in over 80% of cases. Yet, because it often goes unrecognised, depression continues to cause unnecessary suffering.

How do I know if someone I know suffers from depression?br> She/he may have some of the following symptoms:

  • Persistent sad, anxious or “empty” mood.
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities that were once enjoyed, including sex.
  • Feelings of hopelessness and pessimism.
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness, self reproach.
  • Insomnia, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping.
  • Appetite and/or weight loss or overeating and weight gain.
  • Decreased energy, fatigue and feeling run down.
  • Increase use of alcohol and drugs.
  • Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts.
  • Restlessness, irritability and/or hostility.
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions.
  • Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders and chronic pain.
  • Deterioration of social relationships.

    What can I do to help?

    Your friend or family member will need your support and help. Try to provide a caring, supportive environment. It is understandable that you might become impatient when your friend does not get better right away or cannot “snap out of it”.

    Encourage the person to seek treatment. Recovery and treatment may, however, take time. The first treatment may not be successful. It may take a while before the right form of treatment (including medication) is determined. The person may lose hope and may not always be compliant when it comes to treatment (including taking medication). Be supportive and if necessary ensure that he/she takes medication regularly and attends all treatment sessions.

    Finally, make sure that you get the support your need. You may feel a bit overwhelmed and helpless at times and may need to have a safe space to offload your feelings.

    Information supplied by the Depression and Anxiety Support Group

    Where to get help:

    Depression and Anxiety Support Group: (011) 783 1474

    Mental Health Information Centre: 0800 600 411

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