How to help a loved one or co-worker with depression

how to help a loved one or co-worker with depression

We all likely know someone suffering from depression.

In 2014-15 about 2.1 million Australians presented themselves with mood disorders, which includes depression.

Mental and behavioural conditions are more common amongst women than men (19.2% compared with 15.8% respectively).

Sure there are signs that indicate the prevalence of these conditions, and ways to help the people suffering from these conditions. But first, we need to dispel some of the myths.

“Depression is a non-prejudicial disease,” says Dr. Michael Weinberg, senior manager of behavioural health at Banner Thunderbird Medical Center. “It is not impressed with your money.”

MYTH: Only weak people get depressed.

FACT: Depression isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s not a choice that can be overcome by thinking positively.

“Another myth is that depression is for people who are weak, who don’t have the willpower to get themselves out of it,” said Dr. Carol Olson, chair of psychiatry at Maricopa Integrated Health System.

A depressed loved one

The signs

  • Changes in mood.
  • Losing interest in favourite activities.
  • Changes in sleep patterns.
  • Apathy.
  • Irritability.
  • Low energy.
  • Hopeless thoughts.
  • Having trouble concentrating.
  • Having thoughts about suicide.
  • Thinking they may be a burden to loved ones.
  • Thinking they have lost purpose.
  • An escalation in substances like alcohol and drugs.

How you can help

Weinberg said when talking to someone about depression, be assertive and don’t avoid the subject.

“Don’t think you can coach them into thinking better,” he said.

He said it is important to let them know they are being heard, but to not tell them their feelings don’t matter.

Olson said it is important to take preventive measures if you are concerned that someone in your household is depressed.

“You want to remove things from the household that they might easily use to commit suicide,” Olson said. “The prime one being a firearm, either removing it from the household or making sure it is locked up.”

Also, Olson suggested removing as much medication as possible.

Olson said it is OK to ask someone if they are having thoughts about suicide, but to be thoughtful about the approach.

“I think it is helpful to lead up to that more slowly,” she said.

If someone admits to such thoughts, it is important to not leave them alone, according to Olson.

When it comes to co-workers, don’t be intimidated by the conversation and feel free to ask for permission to discuss the topic, Weinberg said.

He suggested asking colleagues if they want to share their feelings or want help finding support.

Helping someone who lost a loved one

Olson said it is common for people to feel guilty after losing a loved one.

“I think it is important first to reach out and acknowledge we all try to do the best that we can,” Olson said. “It is impossible to read the mind of another person.”

Weinberg said people should not be afraid to offer to spend time with someone who is grieving.

Olson said counselling can be helpful to anyone. Also, there are support groups in the Valley that can help friends and family of someone who has died from suicide.

Resources available

Olson said people can encourage loved ones to visit their primary care doctor. The doctor can determine if the person is experiencing systems associated with a medical problem.

“Primary doctors can do a full evaluation physically, to make sure there is no physical cause for this person’s mood problem,” she said. “Thyroid condition, for example, can cause depression and some other conditions can as well.”


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