Offering support to those who may be suffering from depression

Guest blog post by Mark Winwood, Director of Psychological Services at AXA PPP healthcare.

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Offering support to those who may be suffering from depression

One in four people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year and it can be an extremely difficult and isolating experience. If you are worried that someone close to you may be suffering with a mental health problem, there are some things you can do to offer them support.

Spotting the symptoms

There are lots of different types of mental health disorders, each with different symptoms, so it might make identification difficult. However, if you have noticed some of the following signs in a friend or loved one, it’s possible they may be suffering from a mental health issue:

  • Psychological symptoms – saying they are feeling sad, displaying a low mood, being tearful, talking about themselves negatively, exhibiting low self-confidence, talking about harming themselves, sleeping more or less than usual, seeming unmotivated, finding it hard to make decisions and not enjoying things they used to enjoy.
  • Physical symptoms – change in movement (e.g. moving more slowly than usual), change in weight/appetite, loss of libido, unexplained aches and pains.
  • Behavioural/social symptoms – neglecting hobbies and interests, neglecting work, not going out as much as usual, not keeping social contacts going, withdrawing from social media, loss of interest in appearance, deterioration of performance at work.

Offering support

If you spot any of these signs and think that a friend or loved one might be suffering from a mental health issue, ask them sensitively how they are feeling. Sometimes just being noticed when you are feeling depressed and realising that someone cares is a wonderful thing, but do be prepared that you might find that your concern is not welcomed. This is a very real possibility, but we have a responsibility to our loved ones and it’s important to reach out if you feel they are struggling.

If they are open to having a chat about things, ask them what they would like to do – it may be that they are already seeking help and just haven’t told you, or they may not wish to progress it any further.

Professional advice

If the person you’re concerned about expresses a desire to seek professional advice, the best place to go in the first instance is their GP. It’s important never to assume their symptoms are the result of a mental health problem – it could be that there is another equally serious medical issue that needs investigating and a GP will be able to determine this. You could also offer to go with them to the appointment, which might make all the difference to them taking this step.

Looking after yourself

When supporting someone tackling a mentaI health issue, it’s important to remember to look after yourself. Get advice and support for yourself from good quality online resource such as Mind, The Samaritans, or the British Psychological Society. Living with someone who is depressed or suffering from a mental health issue isn’t easy and it’s important to really look after yourself, so that you are best equipped to support them.

If you would like expert advice about mental health issues, or how to support people  with mental health issues AXA PPP healthcare offers an ‘Ask the Experts’ service, where you’ll receive a response to any medical question from an expert within a couple of days: www.axappphealthcare.co.uk/expert.

 Thank you Dr Mark Winwood for writing an amazing blog!

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