The Jakarta Post
Tracy Cummings, MD, a staff psychiatrist and medical director at the Lindner Center of Hope, an affiliate of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, told Health.com that any step in the right direction for a loved one suffering from depression goes a long way, because the condition is unimaginably isolating. (Shutterstock/File)
Ever felt like reaching out to a friend or family member suffering from depression, but withdrew in fear of putting him or her in an uncomfortable position?
Depression is more common than many of us may like to acknowledge. In fact, the American Psychiatric Association says one in six people will experience depression in their lifetime.
Tracy Cummings, MD, a staff psychiatrist and medical director at the Lindner Center of Hope, an affiliate of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, told Health.com that any step in the right direction for a loved one suffering from depression goes a long way, because the condition is unimaginably isolating.
“Even just reaching out and listening could make such a difference,” she said.
Try the following to help a loved one recover.
Be there for them
A noticeable sign of depression is seeming listless and not wanting to step out of the house—or even room—anymore. Depression manifests itself in various ways: the person may seem despondent, anxious or lacking in energy. He or she is no longer enthusiastic about the things you used to enjoy together.
Victims of depression might feel uncomfortable burdening others with their feelings, but Dr. Cummings urges the rest of us to let them know that we care. “Your job isn’t to fix them, but to be present,” she says.
Talk things over
Because the subject of depression is often ignored as the elephant in the room, people fail to realize that the condition is about as serious as a physical ailment, such as a crushing migraine or a broken leg. The stigma surrounding depression can easily be eliminated by using respectful language and offering generous support.
Dr. Cummings asserts that it is important to have your loved one know that you are noticing, that you care and want to help.
Get them involved
The isolation that those with depression bring upon themselves only serves to worsen the condition. It is thus important to involve your friend or family member in a social activity, such as watching a movie or grabbing a cup of coffee together.
It may be difficult to get him or her to agree to such an outing, so you should try asserting yourself. “I’d really like for you to come with me” instead of asking “Do you want to do this with me?”
Avoid going out for a drink, though, because alcohol is a depressant.
Join a cause
Dr. Cummings suggests that volunteering can help undo the sense of worthlessness brought about by depression. In addition to providing a sense of accomplishment, volunteering can help victims of depression gain a heightened awareness of the predicaments others face.
Volunteer opportunities are ubiquitous, so it shouldn’t be difficult to choose something you and your loved one can contribute to together.
Suffering from depression means little motivation to roll off the couch or get out of bed. Any form of physical activity that you can encourage your friend or family member to engage in can go a long way, says Dr. Cummings.
To explain the effects scientifically, exercise releases feel-good chemicals called endorphins from the brain and other parts of the nervous system, and these fight pain and stress.
Dr. Cummings explains that the changes that result are likely to alleviate some symptoms of depression.
Cook something healthy
Other effects of depression include inhibiting appetite or triggering carb cravings, neither of which are beneficial. Cooking a healthy meal can help a great deal. A recent study found a modified Mediterranean diet significantly helped ease symptoms of depression.
Cooking or baking together is another social activity you may like to promote to get your loved one engaged.
Dr. Cummings encourages engaging your loved one in a fun activity that will divert his or her mind from negative thoughts. This could be a concert, a lecture, a class, a friendly card game, or a walk through a museum.
Avoid a competitive activity that might make him or her feel pressured to perform. (afr/kes)