Depression is a serious mental issue. It affects millions of people around the world, irrespective of their age. Mental illness can be genetic or can be caused by an imbalance in the neurotransmitters – a chemical substance found in the brain. It can also be a result of poor nutrition, stress and excessive intake of drugs and alcohol.
When a close friend is suffering from depression, the first thing you should do is to encourage them to deal with it. With the right assistance, you can play an important role in their recovery and help them get rid of the condition. However, before jumping to conclusions, identifying the disorder is the first step.
“Recognising the symptoms can be quite tricky,” says Dr Mrinmay Das, Senior Consultant, Behavioural Sciences, Jaypee Hospital. “For this, one must be close to the person and know what the normal behaviour of the person is. If one sees a lot a change in him/her — absent-mindedness, aversion and sorrow — it means the person is depressed.” For instance, if your friend used to laugh at a particular movie scene, but doesn’t do that now, it can mean he/she is suffering from depression.” It is basically a sudden change of behaviour,” adds Dr Das.
Once you are aware that your friend is suffering from depression, try to talk to them indirectly. There can be various ways to start a conversation like — “How are you feeling today?” or “I have noticed some differences in you lately, so was wondering how are you doing?”
“Start with asking questions that makes the person comfortable. One can talk about life and stress. Then go on to ask what is bothering them,” says Dr Sandeep Vohra, senior consultant, Department of Psychiatry, Indraprastha Apollo Hospital, Delhi. “Notice their answers. Gaining their trust is an important factor. They should feel like they can confide in you. They have to know that you won’t take advantage of their situation,” says Dr Das.
“Being patient and listening to them is the key,” believes Dr Shyam Bhat, Trustee, The Live Love Laugh Foundation. He adds, “Listen without judging them. Don’t give them advice like ‘be positive’ or ‘just smile and you will be fine’, hear them out patiently and empathise with their feelings even if you don’t understand why they are feeling that way. Then support and encourage them to seek professional help.”
A depressed person may also have suicidal thoughts. At first, it may be hard to believe that the person you know so much is considering to take the drastic step. But instead of freaking out, you need to hear them out and ask them to consult with a psychiatrist, who will help them in eliminating such thoughts.