India is the most depressed country in the world (a WHO study has concluded that at least 6.5% of the population suffers from a serious mental disorder). The stigma around mental health doesn't make it any easier for people to seek help. However, more and more people have started to talk about it openly now, from Deepika Padukone to Karan Johar.
A positive sign that we have seen is that Indian women are realising the need for intervention when someone they know shows a sign of mental illness. In fact, one of the most frequently asked questions on the POPxo app is on how to help a friend who's dealing with depression (our campaign #POPxoWomenWantMore helped us make more discoveries). Women want to understand the mental illness in a better way, to be able to show compassion to a loved one. So, we have compiled a list of all the ways you can help a friend who is showing signs and symptoms of depression. Remember that love, acceptance and compassion go a long way, but at the same time, professional help may also be needed.
Instead of trying to make them realise their condition, let them understand and accept it on their own. This requires two things - asking and listening. Ask them how they have been feeling lately, what's making them feel sad and why do they think it's happening. Listen to them patiently without any interruption. Let them feel your presence and understand that they're not going through this alone.
Your actions may be well intended, but if you wind up in heated arguments by forcing them to 'buck up' or 'stop being so weak', it might have the opposite affect. Try to understand their frame of mind and the fact that if they could help themselves with just a few words of wisdom, wouldn't have they recovered already? No matter how stubborn they might act, don't come off too strongly. I know you're worried, but just be patient and let them be.
Visit them regularly, play fun games with them, take them out for treats, long road trips or weekend getaways. If you two are close, I'm sure you'd know what they love the most - go ahead and do that!
It's important for your friend to maintain an active lifestyle and not become a recluse. So, take them out for a morning walk every day or enrol yourselves in the nearest dance fitness classes together. Exercise stimulates neurotransmitters that help lift depression, so it might uplift their mood. Don't be too pushy, but encourage them with positive words.
Don't feel bad if they bail on you. They may need some alone time. Don't feel bad if they vent out their frustration or anger on you. They may be more stressed out and hurt than you may be aware of. Just be understanding, and let your friend know that you're there for them whenever they need you.
Author Bill Burnat once said, "Depression doesn't diminish a person's desire to connect with other people, just their ability." No matter how isolated, distant or 'fine' they may perceive to be, all they need is for someone to hug them tightly and reiterate their faith that everything will work out. So, even if your friend doesn't initiate contact or is slower than usual in responding to you, try to stay in touch as much as you possibly can and keep checking up on them.
It's very easy for a person who's going through depression to suffer from low self-esteem, so reminding them of their strengths and why they are admired can make all the difference in the world. They may be feeling trapped or unworthy of being loved, so it will give them a confidence boost and make them feel special.
The most important step is to encourage your friend to visit a mental health professional to take better care of mental health. This could feel quite scary for many people. So, go along, at least for the first few appointments. When people are depressed, they might feel there's little or no hope to get back on track and hence lack the strength to find help on their own. Reassure them that depression is a treatable illness. Give them courage and keep track of their improvement.
Recovery is never a straight line - it always has some ups and downs along the way. But imagine if it seems THIS hard for us on the surface, how would it be for our friend going through the same? So, hang in there. This too shall pass!
Sources: MNN, 29secrets, Dacadoo, The Independent and SBS.
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