Ask the health expert: What can I do to help someone who may have depression?

Ask the health expert: What can I do to help someone who may have depression?

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Q: What can I do to help someone who may have depression?

A: It can be distressing to see a loved one suffer from the grips of depression.

Don't you sometimes feel they should simply 'snap out of it', or 'not think so much' about the unhappy things that are going on in their lives?

Well, the truth is, as much as they wish to, they are unable to.

Depression is a type of mental illness that requires not only professional help but also support from loved ones.

Here are some steps you can take to help them:

1. Do not normalise or trivialise their symptoms

Individuals suffering from depression require a lot of support and encouragement from their loved ones.

Reach out to them as social isolation can worsen depression.

2. Listen to them with empathy

It is important to find out their concerns and provide adequate support.

Avoid any active problem solving for them even though you're tempted to - sometimes, they just need a listening ear that doesn't judge.

3. Encourage them to eat healthily

Individuals suffering from depression may find it difficult to even get out of bed every morning.

Encourage them to be more actively involved in physical activities as exercise can boost the levels of 'feel-good' hormones (e.g. neurotransmitters and endorphins) and lift their mood!

Establish a daily routine and engage them in activities throughout the day. It can improve bad sleeping habits which can worsen insomnia at night.

Furthermore, channeling their attention to other activities can help them find a new purpose in life.

4. Keep a close watch on their safety

Depression can sometimes be so devastating to an individual that they find life not worth living.

In some situations, they may even contemplate hurting the people closest to them. A new mother suffering from postnatal depression may think it is a better option to die together with her baby.

If you realise someone around you having suicidal and/or homicidal thoughts, it is a psychiatric emergency and you should seek professional help immediately.

You can also be more observant of people around you who might be suffering from depression and lend them a listening ear to let them know they are not alone.

However, if efforts have been taken to help your loved one but the feelings of sadness still persist, it is always good to encourage them to seek a professional opinion.

Dr Poon Shi Hui, Associate Consultant, Department of Psychiatry, Singapore General Hospital

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