Jul 12th 2020

How to help someone you live with who has depression

by Monika Parkison and Maria Loades

 

Monika Parkison is Research Fellow and Clinical Psychologist at the University of Reading.

Maria Loades is Senior Lecturer, Clinical Psychology at the University of Bath

 

The coronavirus pandemic has meant sudden changes to our daily lives, with restrictions on free movement, imposed lockdowns and social distancing. Many of these measures will have taken a toll on people’s mental health.

These changes have increased our exposure to known risk factors for developing depression, such as physical inactivity, lack of structure and routine, lack of social support, loneliness, and limited opportunity to do enjoyable and valued activities.

Also, evidence from previous pandemics, such as Sars and swine flu, suggests that disease-containment measures, such as quarantine and social isolation, may be detrimental to mental health. There is growing evidence that the effect of these changes on people’s mental health across the age groups is significant, especially for those who are younger.

Rates of depression in adults and young people are already concerning, and are predicted by the World Health Organization to rise. By 2030, depression will be the highest burden of disease globally, which refers to the overall impact of a health problem, including the financial cost. So although the initial focus during the pandemic has understandably been on physical health, it is therefore crucial that we also turn our attention to people’s mental health, particularly as the two are related.

A lot of advice addresses the person with depression, but here we give advice on what you can do if you live with someone who is depressed.

Clues in their behaviour

Many people find it difficult to ask for help and to let others know how they are feeling. Don’t assume someone is OK just because they say they are. It’s better to ask more questions and risk being annoying than to miss something important, such as symptoms of depression. If they don’t want to tell you, watch their behaviour and notice anything unusual, such as sleeping much later, not eating, staring for long periods, cancelling and avoiding many things.

People’s feelings are often linked to their thoughts and behaviour, and this is demonstrated in the cognitive behavioural therapy model. When people feel depressed, they often experience repeating streams of negative thoughts. It can be helpful to encourage someone who is thinking this way to try to look at different sides to a situation. Useful questions might be: “What advice would you give a friend in this situation?” or “What would be a more helpful way of thinking about this?”

Depression gives rise to self-critical thoughts, such as “I’m no good”, “I shouldn’t feel this way”. Not surprisingly these thoughts then fuel the depression further. It’s helpful to let the depressed person know that you can see how they are feeling and that their feelings are understandable and valid, and will pass in time. This type of validation can help someone who is depressed refrain from criticising themselves for having difficult feelings and to develop more self-compassion.

People who are depressed commonly withdraw from other people and activities. By doing fewer enjoyable and valued activities, it can compound a person’s depression. Try to counteract this by helping the person to re-engage with things that are important to them. Start with small things such as putting some structure into the day and perhaps increasing exercise, or time spent in nature, if possible. Help the person gradually re-introduce activities and social contacts that they see as valuable. Make some small plans together for the future (short, medium and long-term).

A person with depression may commonly find it difficult to problem-solve, and daily activities and issues can quickly start to feel overwhelming. It’s helpful to stay calm and keep conflict and stress in the house to a minimum. Support the person to generate simple solutions to problems and encourage them to put these solutions and ideas into action rather than avoiding things.

Seek outside help

There are a number of other effective treatments for depression. Encourage the person you are supporting to seek extra help if needed. This might be in the form of online information and online courses for both adults and young people; through self-help books; or by contacting your local healthcare provider or mental health services in your area.

Remember, your wellbeing is extremely important when supporting someone with depression. Take time for self-care so you can model positive behaviours and be replenished enough to provide this crucial support.

 

Monika Parkison, Research Fellow and Clinical Psychologist, University of Reading and Maria Loades, Senior Lecturer, Clinical Psychology, University of Bath

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Browse articles by author

More Essays

Jul 31st 2020
EXTRACT: "From a Kantian standpoint discrimination based on race – or religion, or gender – is fundamentally wrong. It is wrong, first of all, because it is dehumanizing, a denial of human dignity. When I racially discriminate, I am denying the person’s intrinsic self-worth, I am, in fact, denying their very right to exist, whether I know it or not. The moral law demands that I treat every individual as a free person equal to everyone else. If the moral law grants each of us a kind of infinite worth, it does not grant someone greater worth than anyone else."
Jul 12th 2020
EXTRACT: "Remember, your wellbeing is extremely important when supporting someone with depression. Take time for self-care so you can model positive behaviours and be replenished enough to provide this crucial support."
Jul 4th 2020
EXTRACT: "--- Nobody is more dangerous than he who imagines himself pure in heart, for his purity, by definition, is unassailable. --- Author James Baldwin’s words, written in the America of the late 1950s."
Jun 29th 2020
EXTRACT: "Numerous studies have shown that children who grow up in more deprived neighbourhoods tend to have worse physical health as adults compared to those raised in more affluent areas. This is the case even when researchers take into account family income and education, and whether or not parents have major illnesses. In order to address this health disparity, researchers need to understand how those living in disadvantaged neighbourhoods end up with worse health outcomes. Our team’s latest study has highlighted one potential way your childhood neighbourhood may influence your health for years to come. It might do so through changing how the activity of your genes is regulated."
Jun 29th 2020
EXTRACT: "Ruth Poniarski is a painter and the author of Journey of the Self: Memoir of an Artist (Warren Publishing, 2020), in which she tells the story of her decade long struggle with mental illness, a “spiraling malady” which led her into a “pattern of psychosis”. I recently had the opportunity to talk with Poniarski about her life and work, and how she eventually overcame her demons."
Jun 27th 2020
EXTRACT: "I know I’m good in a couple of things, really good in a few things, and that’s enough. My confidence is big enough that I can really let people grow next to me, it’s no problem. I need experts around me. It’s really very important that you are empathetic, that you try to understand the people around you, and that you give real support to the people around you."
Jun 27th 2020
An essay about the "the enormously influential 1940 'Head of Christ' painting by evangelical Warner E. Sallman" pictured below.
Jun 17th 2020
EXTRACT: "The diverse, non-human life forms that live in our guts – known as our microbiome – are crucial to our health. A disrupted balance of these contribute to a range of disorders and diseases, including obesity, diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease. It could even affect our mental health..... It’s well known that the microbes living in our guts are altered through diet. For example, including dietary fibre and dairy products in our diets encourages the growth of beneficial bacteria. But mounting evidence suggests that exercise can also modify the types of bacteria that reside within our guts."
Jun 13th 2020
EXTRACT: "Bonhoeffer’s life holds an important lesson for us today, regardless of our religious affiliation or lack thereof. And simply put it is this: you are called upon; you are called on behalf of your neighbor. When you are called to be responsible that is not an obligation which you can decline, discharge or acquit yourself of – it is an infinite responsibility, a “forever commitment” as Charles Blow recently put it. And we all must be prepared to make any sacrifice necessary when we are called."
Jun 11th 2020
EXTRACT: "People differ substantially in how much they’re affected by experiences in their lives. Some people seem to be more affected by daily stress, or the loss of someone close to them. On the other hand, some people seem to get through the same experiences relatively unscathed. Similarly, some people benefit strongly from counselling, or having a support system of close family and friends. Others seem better able to manage on their own. But understanding why some people are more sensitive than others isn’t just a question of how they were raised, and the experiences they’ve been through. In fact, previous research has found that some people in general seem more sensitive to what they experience – and some are generally less sensitive."
Jun 7th 2020
EXTRACT: " The root causes of anthropogenic climate change – which has led to the endangering of countless species across the globe – cannot be adequately grasped in isolation from the technological application of modern science. While Swedish activist Greta Thunberg was certainly justified in calling upon American legislators to “unite behind the science,” neither can we overlook the culpability of science in bringing about the environmental crisis. "
May 23rd 2020
EXTRACT: "The QAnon movement began in 2017 after someone known only as Q posted a series of conspiracy theories about Trump on the internet forum 4chan. QAnon followers believe global elites are seeking to bring down Trump, whom they see as the world’s only hope to defeat the “deep state.” OKM is part of a network of independent congregations (or ekklesia) called Home Congregations Worldwide (HCW). The organization’s spiritual adviser is Mark Taylor, a self-proclaimed “Trump Prophet” and QAnon influencer with a large social media following on Twitter and YouTube."
May 23rd 2020
EXTRACT: "The aim of my research for the Understanding Unbelief programme was to investigate the worldviews of non-believers, since little is known about the diversity of these non-religious beliefs, and what psychological functions they serve. I wanted to explore the idea that while non-believers may not hold religious beliefs, they still hold distinct ontological, epistemological and ethical beliefs about reality, and the idea that these secular beliefs and worldviews provide the non-religious with equivalent sources of meaning, or similar coping mechanisms, as the supernatural beliefs of religious individuals."
May 22nd 2020
EXTRACT: "Psalm 91, for example, reassures believers that God will protect them from “the pestilence that walketh in darkness… A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee”.............Luther was a devout believer but insisted that religious faith had to be joined with practical, physical defences against sickness. It was a good Christian’s duty to work to keep themselves and others safe, rather than relying solely on the protection of God. "
May 22nd 2020
EXTRACT: "Evidence from this study shows clearly that eating foods rich in flavonoids over your lifetime is significantly linked to reducing Alzheimer’s disease risk. However, their consumption will be even more beneficial alongside other lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking, managing a healthy weight and exercising."
May 5th 2020
EXTRACT: "It’s possible that the answers to questions like, “how do I live a virtuous life?” or “how do we build a good society?” are not the same as they were a few weeks ago."
May 2nd 2020
EXTRACT: "Strangely, those with strong beliefs tend to be admired. The human mind hates uncertainty, so it is comforting to be told what to think, and to form settled opinions. But it is not rational. As the philosopher Bertrand Russell wrote: “The fundamental cause of the trouble is that in the modern world the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt.”
Apr 21st 2020
Extract: "Humans, Boccaccio seems to be saying, can think of themselves as upstanding and moral – but unawares, they may show indifference to others. We see this in the 10 storytellers themselves: They make a pact to live virtuously in their well-appointed retreats. Yet while they pamper themselves, they indulge in some stories that illustrate brutality, betrayal and exploitation. Boccaccio wanted to challenge his readers, and make them think about their responsibilities to others. “The Decameron” raises the questions: How do the rich relate to the poor during times of widespread suffering? What is the value of a life? In our own pandemic, with millions unemployed due to a virus that has killed thousands, these issues are strikingly relevant.
Apr 20th 2020
Extract: "If we do not seize this crisis as a moment for transformation, then we will have lost the war. If doing so requires reviving notions of collective guilt and responsibility – including the admittedly uncomfortable view that every one of us is infinitely responsible, then so be it; as long we do not morally cop out by blaming some group as the true bearers of sin, guilt, and God’s heavy judgment. A pandemic clarifies the nature of action: that with our every act we answer to each other. In that light, we have a duty to seize this public crisis as an opportunity to reframe our mutual responsibility to one another and the world."
Apr 16th 2020
EXTRACT: "Death is the common experience which can make all members of the human race feel their common bonds and their common humanity."