Some of us are made aware of mental health problems and realize when we need to seek help. But many of us are not able to gather the strength to tell our loved ones that we are depressed, or ask for professional help with our depression.
Luckily, there are some ways to make asking for help a bit easier.
Understanding Depression and Mental Health
Depression is a mental health disorder that is characterized by persistently feeling sad or hopeless, and comes with a loss of interest in activities and reduced energy.
It can occur in different forms, at different times, and to anyone. Around 21 million people in the US suffered from major depressive episodes in 2020, making it one of the most common mental health issues of our time.
Depression is more than simply 'feeling sad'. It can interfere with our ability to work, sleep, eat and interact with others. It can have a great impact on the way someone experiences the world.
Signs of Depression
Symptoms of depression vary in intensity and occurrence according to the kind of depression, which could include major depressive disorder, persistent depressive disorder, seasonal affective disorder, postpartum depression, psychotic depression, and bipolar disorder among others.
The general signs of depression include the following over two weeks:
- Changes in appetite
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Loss of energy
- Lack of interest in activities a person once enjoyed
- Loss of pleasure
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feelings of guilt, pessimism, or hopelessness
- Decreased self-care
- Physical pains and additional health issues
- Suicidal thoughts or attempts
How Can I Ask for Help?
It can be daunting and may seem impossible, but asking for help is the very solution to a better life. The following tips may aid in supporting a person as they ask for help.
Understanding That Help Is Okay
Many mental health conditions come with symptoms that make it even harder to ask for help. In an individualistic culture, there is additional pressure from the pride of handling everything on our own, and asking for help may sometimes be seen as weak. But it could actually be the strongest thing to do.
Often people fear the diagnosis of depression itself and avoiding the social stigma and the weight of their identity keeps them from asking for help.
While this is completely understandable, depressive disorders are composed of imbalances in our brains, and they simply can not rebalance on their own. Depression does not appear all of a sudden, but rather tends to come about gradually, which runs the risk of overwhelming a person before they may be truly aware of it.
That is why the sooner a person accesses depression treatment, the sooner they can be on an empowering path. The most important thing is to remember that asking for help is okay. There should be no shame in reaching out for help with depression, and in the long term, there are only positives to gain when we speak about it.
The first big step toward recovery is to seek help as quickly as possible. At any low point in life, a good circle of friends and family can be of great support, and that is even more vital when a person struggles with mental health. Reaching out to them can make someone feel understood, less alone, or more seen.
The fear of what people may say is often a reason why many people do not reach out. It is normal to fear that close ones may see the illness of depression instead of the person or that they may see someone suffering from depression as a burden. Most of the time, people are surprised to find that when family members or close friends understand they are struggling, they are more than often thankful that they opened up, and are very eager to provide support.
It may be that a person does not have a family member they feel comfortable opening up to. But reaching out can also be done to a teacher, coworker, tutor, or school nurse. Reaching out is all about not keeping everything inside. This could be by talking to friends about mental illness or reaching out for professional help.
It can be difficult for someone to find the right words to describe or tell another person that they are feeling depressed. But asking for help does not mean that a person needs to know exactly what they need or in what way they need help.
One of the best ways is to write a list of feelings experienced or thoughts had and share these. Reaching out can also come in the form of simply telling someone about not feeling well or struggling and asking them to check in on you often. Having a hard time describing feelings can also be expressed just as it is, like "I'm having difficulty in sharing how I feel right now".
Spending as much time as possible with those around us who are supportive is essential, and leaning on them when we have a tough day is also okay.
Mental Health Professionals
In some cases, family and friends may react in a way that is hard to cope with. They may have preconceived ideas about what depression is. Mental health is very personal, and admitting a struggle with it may bring up complicated emotions for both the person suffering and the loved ones around them. Talking to someone less familiar may be more comfortable, whether it is a doctor or a mental health professional on the other end of a helpline.
Out of the 3.8 million US adolescents who experienced major depressive episodes in 2019, 56% did not receive treatment. Therapy is thankfully becoming more normalized, but opening up about mental health struggles is still sometimes seen as taboo. At the same time, mental health symptoms of depression, like numbness or hopelessness, may make it even harder to reach out to a professional.
But a therapist can truly help with depression, and the courage to seek professional advice or ask for help from a mental health specialist can turn your life around. If making an appointment is too difficult as a first step, friends or loved ones could call a doctor and make an appointment on your behalf.
Mental health professionals can make the biggest difference as they can provide a person with the most effective treatment for depression. The combination of therapy and medication is often the most useful, but can not happen without a diagnosis. Without the clinical attention needed for diagnosis, any effective treatment could remain out of reach, and the depression could ultimately worsen.
A very helpful community is found in support groups. Often led by a therapist, this group setting involves others that are struggling with depression. Support groups provide a safe place for individuals dealing with mental health challenges to share their experiences, cope with them, and support each other in them. Depression can easily lead to isolation and a feeling that others may not understand its depths.
Encouragement, empathy, understanding, and comfort are given and received in support groups. This then eases emotional pain and provides valuable insights into how others deal with similar struggles. It also greatly improves self-care and can boost a sense of optimism, and is a peer support base for anyone who needs to ask for help. Here, others may truly understand how depression feels.
Experiencing depression may cause self-care to be left unattended, and consciously paying attention to it may be critical. Asking for help may mean asking it from yourself, too. This means attending to physical, mental, emotional, and relational needs as much as possible. A person may strive to eat regular, healthy meals, get enough sleep, spend time meditating, go for a walk, or talk to friends and family.
The mind, body, and soul feel better when a person practices self-care. While taking steps to address depressive symptoms may feel isolating, the experience can be shared with others. A way to ask for help is to invite a friend to go for a walk with you, or to have a meal together.
Where Can I Find Treatment Options?
Well-rounded and compassionate care at Cornerstone can help you or a loved one suffering from depression. Our experienced mental health team embraces a wide range of treatment approaches, including medication, individual and group therapy, and family therapy.
A Cornerstone therapist can help relieve symptoms of depression and support you as you become more empowered on your recovery journey. Don't hesitate to ask for help; Cornerstone can help you live the life you truly want, starting today.