Let’s Just Talk About It: How to Help Depressed People

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On September 16, 2017, Talinda Bennington, Linkin Park singer’s widow, uploaded a video. In this video, her husband Chester Bennington is having a great time laughing with his son and friends, tasting gummies, and behaving as usual. Thirty-six hours later, Chester committed suicide, and Talinda wrote that she “shows it, so you know that Depression Doesn’t Have a Face or a Mood.”

Symptoms to look out for

In the same year, Sinead O’Connor made an appeal to be kinder to people with personality disorders. The singer revealed that she wanted to commit suicide for a combination of reasons, one of which is the pressure from society: mental problems and depression remain the elephant in the room. People are afraid to face misunderstanding, the cold shoulder, or be accused of being at fault for their own misfortune. In the video (it has been removed from O’Connor’s social networks. – Ed.), the singer says that she spoke about it because “she is one of the millions” of people in the same situation.

Hashtag #OneOfMillions, launched by Sinead, shows just how massive the issue is and that it should no longer be hushed. According to WHO estimates from 2020, depression has become one of the most widespread maladies in the world. About 264 million people are now living with depression, which is the data collected from those who officially turned to professional guidance and received a precise diagnosis (the percentage of erroneous diagnoses, according to WHO, is also quite high).

What triggers depression

According to studies, women suffer from depression more often than men.

The condition may result from the interaction of social, psychological, and biological factors. A few common triggers include psychological trauma, severe stress from losing a loved one or a job, vitamin D deficiency, poor physical well-being, chronic diseases, genetic predisposition, and alcohol and drug abuse.

The progress of a depressive condition may be mild, more or less controllable, or become acute. While in severe depression, it is difficult for a person to do even simple household chores or take care of themselves, a slight depressive episode (even a recurrent one) is often attributed to seasonal blues and bad mood. A person who is mildly depressed, has difficulty working and communicating, may feel anxious, suffer from low self-esteem, sleep problems, and poor concentration. They may still be actively socializing and participating in various duties and activities. That’s why it is difficult to diagnose depression at this stage. That is why quite often, people with depression may hear some conventional advice like “you need to walk in the fresh air more” or “why don’t you take up some sport?”

Come to think of it, the sport can be an effective deterrent to a depressive mood, according to WHO. It is particularly important for elderly people, yet specifically as a preventive measure, not treatment.

How to tell depression from blues

All people experience mood disorders in one way or another. Anything can send you off the deep end or break down weeping: disappointing weather (especially for weather-dependent people), lack of sleep, conflict at work, lack of recognition, overwork, or burnout. Typically, the condition also normalizes as soon as the “environmental factors” come back to normal. If the symptoms persist, that’s a red flag. Important factors helping to determine that it is not “seasonal” but an illness include a persistent loss of interest in things that used to bring joy and a behavioral change. For example, a person who used to fall asleep easily but now suffers for hours without sleep loses his appetite or, on the contrary, starts experiencing uncontrolled cravings.

If this condition persists for two weeks, even after circumstances have changed, this is a reason to call for a doctor’s consultation. According to scientists, only 40% of cases can see the condition go away naturally. The effective combination of drugs and psychotherapy can lead to an improvement in 70-80% of patients.

How to help someone you care for

No less powerful help in combating depression and helping people to get over it is lifting the stigma of this disease. People with depression and anxiety need help because condemnation or even slight shrugging off may trigger the so-called thwarted belongingness or the feeling of being rejected, which risks ending up in suicidal thoughts. If your loved one suffers from depression, make it clear that your attitude towards them has not changed. Do not devalue their feelings, do not make them feel ashamed, for example, saying that “This is all in your head.” Yes, it is in their head, but guilt won’t help them cope with depression. On the other hand, help with simple things can prove to be really helpful. Offer your helping hand with buying groceries or washing dishes, or take them out to dinner or the cinema, or discreetly share the idea that more and more people turn to specialists for help every year,  — these will definitely be useful. Flashmob #faceofdepression showed that sometimes it is impossible to recognize depression even in a loved one. They can joke, not express any signs of sadness or bad mood – and at the same time be on the verge. “If you don’t look sick, it does not necessarily mean you are healthy,” “…people who suffer, quite often seem the happiest on the outside”, users share in the comments section. They also urged other people – those they know and don’t know alike – to take depression seriously: it’s a disease, not a whim that is wiped off by playing sports, walking in the sun, or hugging. And it is certainly not a reason for jokes.

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