Self Help Advice For Depressed Patients
- Don't fight the depression. Try to accept it as an illness.
- You cannot will the depression away, only accept it.
- Delay any big decisions about work, marriage or money until you feel better.
- Don't trust your memory right now. Take notes and make lists. This will improve when you feel better.
- Waking through the night is very common. It's better to get out of bed until you feel sleepy again.
- Mornings are usually terrible. The day usually gets better towards evening.
- Avoid being home alone for long periods. The depressive thoughts can get worse when no one is around.
- Forget about trying to read technical or complicated material. You need your concentration to do this. Stick to light novels and People magazine.
- Be careful about television. Comedy and cartoons are OK, but anything else can depress you even more than you already are.
- Get outside at least once a day for a walk by yourself.
- Light exercise of any kind can be very helpful to your recovery.
- If you have to do some work, do it in the afternoon or early evening. Your energy and interest are best at these times.
- Try and keep busy, but only with projects that involve your hands, not heavy thinking tasks.
- Talking to loved ones or friends will be difficult for a while. Sympathetic people can actually make you feel worse. Until you feel better, cancel all non-essential social engagements.
- Suicidal or hopeless thoughts are common in depression and will go away once you start feeling better. Talking to someone about these thoughts can help make them go away.
- Your appetite for food is probably low and you may have lost weight. These are core symptoms of depression and will return to normal with treatment. In the meantime, eat small nutritious snacks and have other people cook for you.
- When you start to get better, you will notice a few minutes or more of feeling quite normal, but it doesn't last. These minutes become hours and then most of the day is pretty good. Full recovery takes longer, sometimes a couple of months.
- Don't be surprised if people are confused by your condition and don't know what to say to you. No one can really understand your suffering unless they have had a major depression or have treated many depressed people — like your doctor.
- Once again, don't fight the depression. Try and accept it as an illness. You will be back to normal soon.
What My Family Can Do
Most families worry about a member who is depressed. Some people feel angry and overwhelmed. It is difficult to understand why a depressed person is not "snapping out of it." The first thing to keep in mind is the depressed person cannot help feeling depressed. Sudden crying spells, angry outbursts, and hopeless statements like "what's the point?" are common. This behaviour will disappear with treatment. You can help by distracting the depressed person and keeping them busy with tasks they can accomplish easily. Be patient and reassuring. Help with decision-making and make sure the person gets to appointments with the doctor and takes the medication. Short conversations are better than long talks. As the person recovers, encourage them to be more active and resume their previous responsibilities. Suicide can be a worry. Asking about thoughts of suicide is not going to encourage a suicide attempt.
Dealing with Depression
Signs of depression include:
- Persistent sad, anxious or "empty" mood
- Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism, guilt, worthlessness, and helplessness
- Loss of interest or pleasure in ordinary activities, ranging from school work to sex
- Sleep disturbances (e.g. insomnia or oversleeping)
- Eating disturbances (e.g. decreased or increased appetite and weight)
- Decreased energy, fatigue, and feeling "slowed down"
- Thoughts of death or suicide; suicide attempts
- Increased restlessness and irritability
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering and making decisions
- Physical symptoms — such as headaches, digestive disorders, and chronic pain — that don't respond to medical treatment
- Other signs that you may need professional help are feelings of being completely alone, separate or different, and not wanting to spend time with friends or loved ones.
Seek professional help if:
- it persists for several weeks
- becomes more severe
- leads to self-destructive thoughts and behaviour
Helping Someone Who is Depressed
You aren't responsible for your friend's depression. You can't fix your friend's life or change his or her mood. Although you may be tempted, don't try to give advice or take charge. Just listen.
Useful listening techniques include:
- Being supportive. Don't deny or minimize your friend's pain. Don't try to talk your friend out of any feelings or make judgmental comments about them.
- Showing that you care. Stay in touch and stay interested.
- Being honest. If your friend's behaviour or comments frighten you, say so. Don't try to be superficially cheerful, but do reassure your friend that this feeling is temporary and depression is treatable.
- Knowing when to back off. If you start feeling angry or frustrated because your friend doesn't seem to be listening or changing, explain that you need time out and will continue the conversation later. You may find that short, periodic discussions work best.
If you have a friend who you believe is denying a serious depression, you may want to speak with a mental health professional about how to proceed. And let your friend know you're concerned. Don't be too polite to bring up the topic, but be tactful. Ask whether the person feels he or she is depressed and continue asking questions that encourage frankness. Keep an open mind about how the person evaluates his or her situation and use the listening skills listed earlier.
If you feel suicidal and are thinking about hurting or killing yourself, call student services or the hospital emergency room and contact your mental health centre immediately.
As one student who attempted suicide advises, if you're thinking you can't live any more, ask for help. Suicidal feelings are intense and professional help may be needed.
Talking about suicidal thoughts is often a great relief to the depressed person. However, anyone seriously thinking about talking their life is in need of urgent professional help to prevent a tragedy. Families should inform the doctor of any concerns they have.
How Do You Know If a Friend Is "Really" Suicidal ?
There is no foolproof checklist for identifying a suicidal person. Suicide, like much other human behaviour, is difficult to predict. Take any suicide talk or attempt seriously. Professional help is needed, even if you don't think your friend means to succeed. A suicidal gesture is serious and dangerous. It may accidentally result in permanent injury or death.
Warning Signs of a Suicidal Attempt
Warning signs that a person may be prepared for a suicide attempt include:
- Displaying the symptoms of serious depression as stated
- Increasing use of alcohol and other drugs, and increasingly engaging in high risk activities such as reckless driving or physical fights;
- getting the means for killing oneself, e.g. buying a gun or stocking up on sleeping pills;
- giving away prized possessions;
- statement indicating a desire to get even with significant others, or make someone feel sorry;
- discussing suicidal, the hereafter, and/or wills and other legal matters related to death.
In addition, studies have shown that people who have attempted suicide in the past are at risk for repeating, and people who have relatives who attempted suicide often are more likely to make attempts.
Helping a Friend Who is Suicidal
How to help a friend who is suicidal:
- Explain to your friend that you're concerned about the situation.
- Find out if your friend has a specific plan and get friend professional help immediately. Contact the suicide prevention hotline, hospital emergency room or local crisis centre.
- Make an agreement with the person that he or she will not attempt suicide while you're finding help.
Some things not to do:
- Don't assume the situation will take care of itself.
- Don't leave your friend alone.
- Don't be sworn to secrecy.
- Don't act shocked or surprised at what your friend says.
- Don't challenge, dare or use verbal shock treatments.
- Don't argue or debate moral issues.