WHEN did you last check in with a mate you thought had become a bit withdrawn, or a family member who seems not quite themselves?
Spotting when someone you love is struggling can be difficult, even if you see them everyday.
But for Blue Monday (January 17), we’re all being encouraged to sit down with a cup of tea and have a good chat with someone, to find out how they’re really doing.
Not everyone always feels able to share what they’re going through though, so knowing the symptoms of depression can be really important when it comes to showing up and supporting a loved one.
Here are six key signs that someone may be struggling…
1. FEELING BLUE
When it comes to depression, continuous low mood is likely the first potential symptom you’ll spot in a loved one.
They may seem withdrawn, quiet and persistently sad, potentially less affectionate than usual, as well as less communicative.
2. CAN’T GET GOING
If your loved one is finding it hard to cope with parts of day-to-day life, it could be a sign they need some mental health support.
Everyday tasks – be it going to work, doing the laundry, eating dinner (let alone making it) – can feel more difficult, possibly insurmountable, for people who are depressed.
They may even start speaking and moving more slowly, feel weighed down by lethargy and have no motivation to do anything, even the things they love.
3. TOUGH LOVING
The NHS says a key symptom of depression is “not getting any enjoyment out of life,” and a loss or lack of interest, particularly in things someone normally enjoys and looks forward to, can be a real red flag.
Admittedly, Covid has significantly cramped all our social lives, but if your friend or loved one is opting out of activities they used to be the first one to organise, be it drinks at the pub or walks in the park, or if they seem to have dropped hobbies or friends, they may be struggling with their mental health.
4. FEELING IRRITABLE
Getting sniped and snapped at? Or noticed your loved one is being more moody or irritated than normal?
If this behaviour is out of character for your friend or family member, rather than instantly snapping back or walking away (like you may want to), it could be a sign they aren’t feeling quite themselves, and may need someone to talk to – you and/or a professional.
5. BROKEN HABITS
We’ve all had to adjust to changes to our routines thanks to the pandemic.
Between home working, home schooling, lockdowns and self-isolation, routines have gone out the window for a lot of us, but for some people, changes in behaviour could indicate depression.
Some people with depression find their appetite and weight changes, they have disrupted sleep or they drop hobbies and withdraw from social circles.
6. MIRROR MIRROR
If your loved one is feeling depressed, they may also start to lose interest in the way they look.
They might say there’s ‘no point’ making an effort or trying to look their best, or put themselves down as a result of low self-esteem and feelings of worthlessness.
Need to know
NHS talking therapies can help if you’re struggling to cope with feelings of anxiety or depression.
Your GP can refer you or, in England, you can refer yourself online via nhs.uk/talk.
If you need help for a mental health crisis, emergency or breakdown, NHS urgent mental health helplines offer 24-hour advice and support for people of all ages.
Find a local NHS urgent mental health helpline via nhs.uk/urgentmentalhealth (England only).
If someone’s life is at risk or they cannot be kept safe, call 999.
How to help someone with depression:
- Reassure them that it’s ok to seek help, and support them to do that. Avoid putting pressure on them – let them go at their pace
- Stay in touch with them – we don’t mean keep tabs on them, just check in so they know you’re there for them and are around to talk and listen
- Be open about mental health – talking helps reduce stigma
Remember to support your own mental wellbeing too
Whether you have a history of depression or anxiety, or not, it’s important to take care of your own mental health, especially if you want to be in a position to support those you love.
Not sure where to start?
Try the ‘Movember Six’ healthy habits to support your mental wellbeing, from the men’s health charity (au.movember.com):
1. Do activities that give you purpose and meaning
This could be learning a new skill, taking on a challenge or helping someone else.
2. Spend time with people who make you feel positive
It’s important for your mental health to make the time to catch up regularly and re-establish relationships that have drifted during lockdown.
3. Talk to people you trust when times get tough
Confiding in someone about an issue that’s bothering you can help you stay mentally healthy.
It isn’t a sign of emotional weakness – getting someone else’s perspective can help you see a situation in a new light.
4. Increase physical activity
Exercise doesn’t just benefit your physical health it also raises self-esteem and positively changes your mood.
5. Support others in bad times
Research suggests that helping a mate also creates positive feelings in ourselves and gives us feelings of purpose and self-worth.
6. Speak to a health professional when you need to
We all have times when our mood is low but if the feelings don’t pass and start to interfere with your life, it could be a sign that it’s time to call in an expert.
Contact the Samaritans
If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, contact The Samaritans on 116 123.
They are available for free at anytime.
Or email https://www.samaritans.org/