Cheryl Lythgoe, Matron at Benenden Health, shares some useful ways you can help someone who is showing signs of depression, or is already diagnosed with it.
After new data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) this week revealed male suicide rates in the UK have reached an all-time high, the discussion around suicide prevention has quite rightly been pushed to the forefront of the national health agenda.
Although many people who have depression do not die through suicide, suffering from major depression does increase suicide risk. This, paired with knowledge that 24% of women and 13% of men in England are diagnosed with depression in their lifetime, highlights a need to consider both preventative, supportive, and reactive measures to help those suffering.
To help, Benenden Health has outlined seven ways you might be able to support someone suffering from depression, or those showing signs of it.
1. Gently tell them you are concerned
It can be hard to broach the subject of depression, but if you’re worried about someone, tell them you’ve noticed that they seem to be having a hard time. They may feel relieved to know that someone cares.
2. Avoid belittling their feelings
Instructing someone with depression to ‘snap out of it’, ‘cheer up’ or ‘look on the bright side’ isn’t going to help them change their mood. In fact, it may make them push you and others further away. Instead, try to be compassionate, invite them to talk and accept their feelings without judgement.
3. Be available – and let them know
It may be tempting to leave someone with depression to their thoughts and give them space, but that could isolate them further. Text, phone or arrange to meet the person – and stay in touch so that they know you’re there for them – one conversation is unlikely to be enough. Don’t be disheartened that they may not answer immediately. For some it can take days, weeks, or months to be ready to talk – just knowing you are thinking of them can often make all the difference
4. Offer healthy solutions
Depressed adults may be less inclined to exercise or eat healthily. They may also turn to drink or drugs to get through. Instead of encouraging this, try to suggest healthy activities such as going for a walk or cooking a simple, nutritious meal together.
5. Encourage them to help themselves
If their depression seems long-lasting and they are not in touch with their GP or any support services, try to encourage the person to seek help. The GP can either organise a referral or advise on any treatments that could help to alleviate the symptoms of depression. Benenden Health members can access the Mental Health Helpline from day one of membership, which offers a full assessment from a dedicated medical professional.
6. Let them be heard
Giving someone with depression a chance to talk (if they want to) is very important. Talking therapy is a proven way to tackle mild to moderate depression, so peer support groups could also help. Benenden Health members can also access the 24/7 mental health helpline, to hold a conversation with a trained professional in a time of need.
7. Seek help if you are unsure
Depression can be mild, moderate or severe so if you suspect someone has severe depression – or you have any fears that they may be suicidal – it is recommended you seek help as soon as possible. There are a number of services you can turn to, including:
The individual’s GP
Samaritans on 116 123
Mind on 0300 123 3393
However, if they are in immediate danger, please do call 999.
Benenden Health has more than 800,000 members – including 30,000 who have membership as part of an employee benefits package – and provides a range of discretionary healthcare services open to all. Benenden Health has also produced a Covid-19 hub on its website with tips and information about how to support your mental health during the coronavirus pandemic.