How to help a person with depression

At times in our lives, we can sometimes become more susceptible to illness and see a decline in our health. This can include mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. This guide looks at the signs and symptoms of depression and how you can help a loved one (or perhaps yourself) experiencing it.

If you have questions about caring for someone with depression and would like to speak to us in person, please don’t hesitate to get in touch using our contact information. Or, head to our Mental Health Care page for an overview of our services.

What is depression?

According to Mind, a leading mental health charity, depression is:

“Depression is a low mood that lasts for a long time and affects your everyday life. In its mildest form, depression can mean just being in low spirits. It doesn’t stop you leading your normal life but makes everything harder to do and seem less worthwhile. At its most severe, depression can be life-threatening because it can make you feel suicidal.”

Depression can be mild, moderate or severe and people can move between these during one episode or more. There are some specific types of depression too, such as Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) which occurs at a particular time of year, or during a particular season and Dysthymia, a continuous mild depression that lasts for two years or more.

These types and various severities can mean different symptoms are experienced by each person. The important thing to remember is that depression is different for each unique person who has it, there is no set of symptoms that a person will always have.

What causes depression?

There are several thoughts about the causes of depression. It can happen without any obvious reasons behind it, or it can come after a significantly distressing life event or experience. Some studies suggest depression is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. There is also evidence to suggest that if someone has a close family member who has experienced depression, they may be more susceptible. However, nothing is a confirmed cause of depression and ultimately the human brain is very complicated.

What are the common signs and symptoms of depression?

Even though depression is different for each person, there are some common signs and symptoms to look out for. Someone experiencing depression may appear or feel:

  • Down or overly emotional and tearful
  • Restless, agitated or irritable
  • Guilty and down on themselves
  • Empty and numb
  • Isolated, unable to relate to other people
  • Hopeless
  • Suicidal

You may also start to see a change in their behaviours as a result of these emotions and feelings. Finding no pleasure in life or things they usually enjoy, and a lack of confidence are both common. They may also:

  • Have difficulty sleeping or sleep too much
  • Lose their appetite
  • Have difficulty making decisions
  • Experience physical pain with no obvious cause

Depression can often isolate people as they struggle to deal with what they are experiencing. They may also find it hard to explain to loved ones, especially if their behaviour has changed dramatically.

How can depression affect the elderly?

Depression can affect someone at any age. However, the elderly can be susceptible because as we age, we experience more losses, we can lose mobility and independence or fall ill more often. Grief and loss can lead to depression as can a decline in health. Elderly people also might need to take more medications, which can have unwanted side effects. This can lead to a sense of helplessness. It’s important to look for the signs and symptoms in our elderly loved ones.

How can I help someone experiencing depression?

Helping someone with depression can seem difficult at the outset. This is because it can often occur without any obvious cause. However, offering support and being aware of changes in a loved one’s behaviour can help them to get better or manage symptoms far quicker than on their own.

Simple ways you can support a person with depression include:

  • Taking them to see their GP for diagnosis, treatment, and advice
  • Being open and speaking about the problems they are facing
  • Keeping in touch regularly – even if to let them know you are thinking of them
  • Helping them with day to day tasks, especially if mobility is an issue for them
  • Keeping them connected to friends and family
  • Doing things with them that they enjoy

Loneliness and isolation are a big concern for people with depression. The Guardian reported that the number people living alone increased by 16% between 1997 and 2017, to 7.7 million and that by the year 2039 nearly one in seven Britons could be living on their own. Of course, living alone does not automatically lead to depression, however isolation and loneliness could increase as well as financial pressures, which can make life more difficult.

Being available to someone who is feeling lonely or depressed is a significant step. If they feel they can trust and talk to you, and that you are willing to spend time with them, it can help them to feel more connected to people.

There are mental health charities and groups available to help people experiencing depression. These include:

Cavendish Homecare’s Mental Health services are here to help too. Our passion and experience for delivering the best service possible is evident in all we do, and we understand the bravery it takes to seek help for a mental health issue. If you have questions about what we offer, please get in touch.

Looking for advice on home care?

With over 30 years of experience in the NHS and private healthcare sectors, our family-owned agency has the compassion, the knowledge and the staff to provide superior private live-in care services, paediatric care, cancer care and many more services. If you need help or guidance on caring for a loved one, Cavendish can help.


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