An Outsider’s Perspective: What Those Who Have Never Experienced Mental Illness Can Do to Help Those with Depression

This guest post is contributed by Kitty Holman, who writes on the topics of nursing schools. She welcomes your comments at her email Id:

If you have never personally experienced any form of mental illness or been close to someone affected by it, depression can be a completely foreign concept for you. I personally felt like an outsider, and was confused and felt helpless when someone I loved developed depression. Luckily, if you have also experienced this, there are ways that you can help your loved one get through this difficult period in his or her life.

One of the first things that you try to do in order to help your depressed loved one is to understand major depressive disorder and dispel any prejudice you may have had about it. Trying to understand the situation and what they are going through can do a lot to help them feel like you accept their condition. Depression affects approximately 14.8 million American adults, which is about 6.7 percent of the population, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. In fact, it is the leading cause of disability for citizens between the ages of 15 and 44 years. Depression affects the mind and the body and can severely affect an individual’s day-to-day life due to overwhelming feelings of sadness, worthlessness, or even apathy. Though it may be frustrating for you to witness a loved one struggle to get through even the most mundane and routine of activities, you should try to realize that depression is a serious illness and not just an extended case of the blues. Unlike the sadness that people may feel after heartbreak or loss, depression does not diminish with time and someone with depression cannot just “snap out of it.” Those with depression need treatment, whether it is in the form of medication or counseling. Therefore, try not to become frustrated with your inability to “cheer up” a loved one with depression.

Looking out for the depressed individual is another thing that I suggest doing to help. Keep an eye on his or her behavior and try to note any changes that may occur, especially if the symptoms of depression appear to worsen. For example, any increased bouts of crying spells, increased irritability, vocalizations about suicide or self-harm, or substance abuse should raise red flags. If you notice any of these things, get your loved one in contact with a counselor or mental health provider right away. Otherwise, I suggest that you just keep monitoring his or her progress. Try to encourage them to attend counseling sessions and to take their medication regularly. Consider reassuring them that you do not think less of them for needing these treatments. Depression is unfortunately still fraught with misconception, so try letting your loved one know that you understand their condition in order to help them cope.

In addition to looking out for your loved one, I suggest looking out for yourself. Try to not let your loved one drag you down because that is the last thing they would want. Consider taking the time to do things that make you happy, such as pursuing a favorite hobby or traveling to a new place. When you keep your own spirits up and have a positive attitude, you typically offer the depressed individual hope. Keeping your own spirits up will also allow you to be a better listener. When your loved one needs to unburden their hearts to you, you will be able to listen more clearly and stay stronger when they cry if you are not depressed yourself. When you feel overwhelmed by having to support a loved one with depression, consider joining a support group for people in your situation. Dealing with depression from an outsider’s perspective is undoubtedly difficult, so it could help immensely to meet with others who are going through the same thing. This will also prevent you from unintentionally developing feelings of resentment towards your loved one.

Depression is a serious illness that requires hard work from the depressed individual and his or her loved ones to cope. Yet, even if the entire concept of depression is entirely alien to you, you can still consider being helpful and supportive by providing education, empathy, and vigilance, as well as maintaining your own positive attitude.

All views and content are those of guest blogger: Kitty Holman. I thank her for sharing her perspective with Una Vita Bella’s readers.

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