You Can’t Just Snap Out of
Depression is very damaging to the mental and physical health of a person, but when it comes to caring for a loved one’s suffering from mental illness, it becomes increasingly difficult, because it is not only one person affected, but two. It’s not easy to watch someone we love struggle and suffer. However, if steps are taken to ensure we try to do everything we can to help and provide for our loved one, it gradually becomes easier over time.
Mental health issues have been put on the back burner for quite a long time, but not anymore. These issues have now begun to be more and more talked about and researched than ever before. Some of the most common mental illnesses, depression, and anxiety are now being talked about more openly. For the most part, these illnesses have often been misunderstood. For example, depression has often been mistaken for laziness and general lack of concern. However, this is not the case. The brain is a complex organ and has the ability to process information at an alarming rate but it has its limitations. Yet, according to science, depression occurs when the brain has low levels of serotonin.
Depression can manifest gradually so it is very important to know the signs. Signs of depression can include loss of interest in doing things that were previously enjoyable. An example could be if a person enjoyed watching football but doesn’t anymore, not because they don’t like it, but because they don’t experience pleasure from it anymore. Feelings of hopelessness or feeling down (low mood). Feeling fatigue which means the person feels tired or they do not have enough energy to do things like showering. Some people can also start to overeat while others can lose their appetite altogether. Many individuals start to lose their concentration when doing everyday tasks, such as doing work or reading the newspaper.
In many ways, one of the biggest indicators of depression is a drastic change in our loved one’s personality or mood. So if you notice major changes in your loved one, then it could be that they are experiencing mental health challenges.
Depression’s presentation can also vary depending on age. In older people, it can be simple things like an empty fridge or cupboards, which suggest that they are not eating or taking care of themselves. It can also include neglecting their appearance such as not showering, not combing their hair, not changing their clothing, or not brushing their teeth. If your loved one has not bathed for days, maybe even weeks because they physically or mentally cannot get up from their bed, then it may be a call for concern.
It is a difficult job to care for a loved one struggling with depression and it requires a lot of patience on your part. It is possible that you will get frustrated because your loved one asks for a lot of reassurance or asks questions repeatedly. It is not easy, but its crucial that you understand what your loved one is going through so that you can have empathy. However, this also means that you have to take care of yourself and find your own support system.
Helpful Tips for Supporting Your Loved One
- Doing your research about depression or anxiety can make a huge difference in how you approach your loved one. Remember that depression is an illness, not a choice. We cannot simply ask our loved ones to “snap out of it.” Think of it as someone getting cancer, they simply can’t stop having cancer.
- Let your loved one know you are here for them and you want to listen. This will alleviate some doubts your loved one may have about feeling judged.
- Encourage your loved one in a gentle and calm manner to help themselves by eating properly, staying active, and trying to divert their minds to things they would enjoy.
- Patience is key when caring for a loved one. They will ask for reassurance and help with things repeatedly so it is imperative that he or she feels safe and heard.
- Contact specific services if the person is expressing suicidal thoughts with a plan or intent. Suicidal thoughts can also come into your loved one’s mind when depression gets worse due to feeling despair. Your loved one may feel that they no longer want to live or bare with the emotional pain. In your loved one’s mind suicide becomes a viable option. There are various hotlines that offer 24/7 support in many different languages. You can also call 911 or take them to the nearest emergency room for support.
- Encourage your loved one to seek professional help. Therapy and psychological counseling can help to lessen the effect of depression and anxiety and therefore highly reduce the dangerous risk of suicide. Mental health professionals can also advise caregivers on what they can do to help the loved one.
- You are NOT responsible for “fixing” or “curing” your loved one and should accept your limitations. Make sure you have your own support circle, resources, and self-care strategies.
Luis is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist who graduated from Long Beach State University with a Masters degree in Counseling Psychology (2015). He also has a Bachelors's degree in Child and Adolescent Development with an emphasis on Public Policy from San Francisco State University (2011). Luis has over 9 years of experience working with children and families both in education and mental health. Previously, Luis worked for a non-profit agency in San Francisco, CA providing mental health consultation in early head start programs and SFUSD pre-schools. Currently, Luis works at Kaiser in San Francisco providing mental health services.
His therapeutic interests include working with Trauma, the LGBTQ community, Children, Families, Couples, and POC. His personal interests include; Films, Reading, Writing, Art, Travelling, Disney, and Food. He is also a recipient of the California State Stipend award (2015). PsychoSocial is part of Luis' dedication to mental health and an example of his passion to educate others. Luis hopes that through PsychoSocial he will be able to help in the fight to end the stigma around mental illness.