Mental health conditions such as depression may be a taboo subject, but they are more common than we think. In Singapore, 1 out of 16 Singaporeans will have experienced depression symptoms at least once in their lifetime.
If untreated, clinical depression can lead to risky behaviours such as drug addiction, inability to leave toxic relationships, and may even lead to suicidal tendencies.
If we suspect someone close to us is depressed, timely intervention is key. We speak with psychologist Samantha Tay on the topic. What are some of the common signs of depression, and how can we help them?
Common Signs of Depression
An individual is likely to be depressed if they manifest some of the following symptoms consistently over a period of 2 weeks:
- Withdrawal from activities and hobbies that they used to enjoy
- Expressing sense of self guilt, worthlessness, and helplessness
- Prolonged overeating or loss of appetite
- Looking sad, anxious, or “empty” for a long period
- Expressing suicidal thoughts or even attempting to commit suicide
- Showing signs of or complaining about experiencing fatigue and sleep problems
- Irritability or misplaced anger
- Drug and/or alcohol abuse
If you notice one or some of the above signs in your loved ones, you may need to plan how you can introduce the right intervention, before your loved one’s condition worsens.
How to persuade a depressed friend or relative to seek help
Depression is treatable through a combination of emotional support, psychotherapy and medical treatment. In some cases, a depressed person may deny having mental health issues, or may even get upset and become hostile if you try to push them to see a psychotherapist.
Take a gentle and empathetic stand when approaching the issue. Here are a few steps on what you can do to support your loved one:
Step 1: Spend more time with them
Spend more time with them and let them know that they are not alone. Engage them in the things that they like, while steering clear of touchy subjects that may worsen the situation. Try to cheer them up and be there for them as much as you can, whenever they need someone to talk to.
Step 2: Express your concern
When you have established a sense of trust with your loved one, it may be easier to bring up your concerns. Once they see you as someone they can trust with their personal issues, gently bring up your observations about their behaviour changes, and express your concern about their wellbeing.
Step 3: Listen patiently
Being a listening ear for your loved one can be therapeutic for them. Give them enough space to talk freely, with minimal interruptions. If they’re struggling to open up, do not pressure them. Let them know that you’ll be there for them whenever they feel ready to share.
Step 4: Respond with empathy
Be gentle when suggesting to your loved one that they may need professional help. It is crucial that you express empathy. While you may not fully understand what they are going through, you can express your care by simply being present and non-judgmental. Share online resources that can help explain what the process of therapy is like, and you may offer to research suitable therapists or psychologists on their behalf.
Step 5: Assist in appointment booking
When they accept your suggestion, offer to help them set up the first appointment. Work together with them to find an experienced and suitable psychotherapist and help them in booking an appointment.
Step 6: Accompany them for moral support
You may accompany your loved one on the appointment day as a way of showing solidarity and support. Knowing that they are not going through it alone will help them to stay consistent with their therapy sessions, and lead to a higher chance of recovery.
There is nothing wrong with seeking professional help when we’re struggling with mental health issues. However, making a decision to seek help may be a challenging one. These tips are just a few ways that you can encourage a loved one to get treatment.
If they’re nervous about physical meetings, speak to a qualified mental health expert over the DA app. A video-call from the privacy of their home may be a more comforting first-step towards better mental health.
Written in collaboration with Samantha Tay