Over the past couple of years, I've learned not to judge a book by its cover. People who often look like they have life all figured out, may not really feel the same way. If you dig deeper, things could be in shambles. Celebs are no exception here either. Jim Carrey, J.K. Rowling, Kristen Bell, Robin Williams, Varun Dhawan, Deepika Padukone, Ileana D'Cruz and even King Khan, have all battled depression at some point in their life.
Today, it's not okay to use the term 'depression' casually or loosely. Today, it's not okay to tell someone to 'get over it'. Today, it's not okay to make fun or think poorly of someone who suffers from depression. We're all fighting some sort of battle internally, and it's important to be supportive and kind to each other during difficult moments like these.
If you know someone who is battling depression right now, here's what you can do on your part.
Bursts of motivational acts are fine, but constantly lecturing someone on how to get over depression without you having been in their shoes is simply not done. Hear them out. The best form of support you can give them is your attention. Listen without any judgement or assumption. The more they share, the lighter they feel. Also, be mindful about the way you feel. Constant exposure to negative thinking can affect your life as well. Take breaks when needed and come back to them when you're in a calmer frame of mind.
In most parts of India, it is frowned upon to seek help from a therapist. Just how you would visit a doctor if you had an injury, the same rule applies to booking a slot with your therapist. It's normal and healthy. If you know someone who used to go to therapy but suddenly stopped, casually ask them about it. Motivate them to continue therapy. If for whatever reason that therapy isn't making the cut for them, respect their decision and suggest alternatives instead. Yoga for mental health, long walks in the park, music classes, gardening or even join a book club, these activities will help your friend find another 'Ikigai' in life.
One way to understand someone who is depressed is learning about the term first. Before initiating conversations with them, do your research. Read up on symptoms and articles of people who have helped others come out of depression. For example, when someone is depressed you'll notice a change in their sleeping patterns. They may either sleep for fewer hours or more. Notice their eating patterns. Are they skipping meals or eating more than they normally would? They could also be experiencing a series of complex emotions at one go. Anger, anxiety, guilt, sadness or helplessness - be kind and sensitive.
Also, learn about medications. Get familiar with the name of the drugs, research about its side effects and what it does to the body. If they need to take their medicine every day, make sure that they do by reminding them, keep their pills organised, refill prescriptions and motivate them to continue treatment.
Understand that depression isn't an extension of who they are as people. Their illness is one thing, and they as people, are another. Don't take it personally when their social skills upset you. Remember, you aren't the target. You just happened to witness an unpleasant emotional outburst. Avoid reacting back with anger. They're going through a rough phase and you just have to be patient with them.
No matter how difficult it gets to take care of them, don't give up. Love them unconditionally. You see, people who are depressed often think that you are better off without them. They do not want to be a 'burden' to you. You need to reassure them that's not the case. Tell them that the two of you are going to come out of this together. Fill their heart with hope by telling them the people who need them in their lives. It could be their kids, their partner, their friends or even their parents. Give them a reason to fight with life for a second chance. I'm sure they'll triumph!
People who suffer from depression usually find it difficult to complete everyday tasks. You can make their life a little easier by offering help. Whether it's grocery shopping, cleaning the house or simply watering the plants - a small deed goes a long way. Your time is one of the best gifts you can give someone. On days when you have free time on your hands, taken them out for a movie or for coffee - it will make their day!
Someone who is severely depressed may have regular thoughts about suicide and self-harm. If faced with such a situation, please understand that you may not be equipped, informed or experienced to handle this individual. You must seek professional help. I'm listing down a few helpline numbers in India and email ids for you to reach out to whenever you feel all hope is lost.
Sumaitri, Delhi - email@example.com
Roshni, Hyderabad - +firstname.lastname@example.org
Maithri, Kochi - 0484 email@example.com
iCall, Mumbai - +9122 firstname.lastname@example.org
Aasra, Mumbai - email@example.com
Remember that looking after someone who is suffering from depression can take a toll on your own mental health. Look after yourself by taking time off, surrounding yourself with positive energy and eating right. All the best!