World Suicide Prevention Day 2018: How you can help a loved one suffering from depression
By: Rukmini Chopra
Published On: September 10, 2018
Depression is one of the leading causes of suicide in India. On World Suicide Prevention Day 2018, here are some things you can do to help a loved one suffering from depression...
“Boy jumps from the 19th floor of Mumbai hotel”... “Anthony Bourdain dead at 61 of apparent suicide”... “Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington commits suicide”...these headlines are not only disturbing but a big wake up call for all of us; they hint at the rise in depression cases nationally as well as globally and the lack of help that is provided to those suffering.
Depression is defined as a “ mental health disorder characterised by persistently depressed mood or loss of interest in activities, causing significant impairment in daily life.”
Going by the definition, it’s clear that depression is a medical condition and requires immediate and urgent attention like any other ailment.
While some people are able to get help and overcome depression through medication and therapy, there are others who sadly fall prey to the stigma and taboo associated with mental health, especially in India.
Though the topic of mental health is beginning to receive the required attention, the shocking statistics of suicide cases in India, are proof that we as a nation need to do a better job in identifying depression and helping those suffering from it.
According to wikipedia, “about 800,000 people commit suicide worldwide every year, of these 135,000 (17%) are residents of India, a nation with 17.5% of world population.”
This report suggests that depression is one of the leading causes of suicide in India. From farmers committing suicide due to heavy debts, to students taking their lives due to exam pressure, various reasons contribute to the growing epidemic.
Image credit: The Lancet
On World Suicide Prevention Day today, we shed light on the importance of knowing how to help a depressed person, especially if he/she displays suicidal tendencies, so that we citizens can do our bit in preventing suicides.
But before knowing how help someone suffering from depression, it is important to know how to identify one. Here are some signs that you should be looking out for:
Stopping interaction with people and not stepping out of the house
Not getting things done at work or school
Not enjoying the activities that they used to enjoy
Withdrawing from close friends and family
Relying on alcohol and other sedatives for comfort and relief
Not able to concentrate
People with suicidal tendencies; when they keep talking about ending their life
Feeling sad, guilty irritable, overwhelmed, indecisive, and lacking in confidence
Often feel that they are “worthless,” “or life’s not worth living,” or “people will be better off without them”
Feel tired all the time, have trouble sleeping, loss of appetite, significant weight gain or loss, headaches and muscle pains etc.
Acting in self-harming, self-destructive ways
Expressing feelings of self hate
Getting things in order and saying goodbye
Sudden sense of calm after a bout of depression
Image credit: Destiny Blue
If you know or come across such symptoms in people, it’s a sign that they need immediate help. But how should you start? It’s important to know how to help such people as one wrong move, can throw them off. Here are some do’s and donts for you:
Learn about depression
Before helping anyone suffering from depression, it’s important that you know and learn about this condition at length. Read up about depression so that you have enough knowledge about it, that you can use to help a loved one.
Having a conversation with someone suffering from depression, may prove to be a sensitive situation for some. However, if you approach the person in a calm and composed manner, you can provide comfort to them in simple ways.
Here are some ways in which you can begin the conversation:
“Recently, I have noticed certain changes in the way you are acting and I was wondering how you were doing” or “I have been concerned about you lately” “You seem pretty low lately hence I wanted to make sure you were okay”
Here are some questions that you can ask
“Is there something you are going through and want to talk about?”
“How long has it been since you’ve been feeling this way?”
“Is there anyway I can help?”
“Have you thought about seeking help?”
Things you can say to comfort the person:
“I may not understand what you are going through, but just know that I am here for you”
“You are not alone in this. I am here for you.”
“You and your life is important to me.”
“You may not believe it right now but there will come a day when the way you’re feeling will change”
“Whenever you feel like giving up, tell yourself to hold on for another day, hour, minute- whatever you can manage”
Encourage the person to seek professional help
To help a loved one, you can encourage him/her to consult a counselor to seek professional help. Many a times, people suffering from depression need medical treatments as well, so it’s a good idea for you to encourage help as soon as possible.
However remember, that asking a person to seek help can be tricky as they may believe its pointless and there’s no hope left for them. Many of them resist help, thinking that they are being targeted and that everything is fine. In case they resist help, here’s what you can do:
Suggest a general check-up
This method can be effective as your loved one may be more comfortable visiting a family doctor than a mental health professional. The doctor can help rule out any medical causes for depression.
Upon diagnosing depression in the patient, the doctor can refer him/her to a trusted counsellor, and this coming from a doctor can prove to be more effective in convincing the person to seek help.
Go with your loved one for his/her first therapy session
Help find a therapist for your loved one and then go with him/her for their first session. Doing this will let them know that you are there for them and they can count on you.
Assist your loved one whichever way you can
Help the person with their appointment schedules, help him/her look for treatment options, offer to drive your loved one to the therapy sessions, help him/her manage other chores, offer to pay for the person’s therapy sessions etc.
Lead by example
In order to encourage your loved one to lead a happier or healthier life, you should set an example yourself for him/her to follow. Do whatever you expect the person to do and encourage them to follow you.
Encourage the person to engage in a fun activity
Encourage your loved on to join dancing classes, gymming, step out for a movie, a drive etc. Be gentle when persisting and don’t push it or be discouraged if they say no.
Take care of yourself
Taking care of a depressed person can be difficult, as it may take a toll on your own physical and mental health. Hence, it’s very important for you to take care of yourself. Here are some ways you can do the same:
Set boundaries: Make clear the situations in which you are willing to help out your loved one. Don’t go overboard in order to help out the person, or else you might burn yourself out and fee low. This might make it hard for you to help out your loved one.
Keep a track of your own life: While taking care of a loved one may take a lot of your time, make sure you stick to your appointments, so that you have your own life on track and don’t have to compromise on it.
Seek support yourself: Don’t be guilty or afraid to seek help for your own betterment. Talking to a counselor or a trusted friend can help you stay level headed and not let the troubles of your loved one wear you down.
While certain gestures and statements can help people suffering from depression in a big way, the wrong ones can affect them severely. Here are some of the things you should NOT do and say to your loved one:
Avoid saying things like:
“It’s all in your head,” “We all go through times like these,” “Just snap out of it,” “I can’t help you,” “Why do you want to die, you have so much to be grateful for.”
Avoid the tough love approach
Many people think that applying the tough love approach may help a person “snap out” of depression. They usually like to deliberately push the person’s boundaries, call him/her names, or give ultimatums like “If you don’t improve, I’ll walk out. Doing this can be incredibly hurtful to your loved one and can push them further into feeling hopeless.
Don’t trivialize their suffering
Don’t dismiss what your loved one is going through by saying that “it’s not a big deal” or “everyone goes through it.” By taking their troubles seriously, you can assure them that they can rely on you for help.
Avoid giving advice
Instead of telling your loved one on how he/she can feel better, always ask them what they would like to do. This makes them feel like they still have a control over their life and can work according to what they need.
Avoid saying that you know how they feel
Unless you have been through depression yourself, it’s not useful telling your loved one that you relate to what he/she is going through. By doing this, you might minimize their pain.
Suicide Prevention Helplines in India
Aside from these dos and don'ts, it’s important to know some suicide prevention helplines in India that you or your loved one can turn to. Here’s a list:
COOJ Mental Health Foundation: +918322252525
Sneha Foundation India: +914424640050
Vandrevala Foundation: 18602662345
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