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How to help a friend deal with depression and suicidal thoughts

ByParmita Uniyal
Sep 09, 2021 01:23 PM IST

World Suicide Prevention Day 2021: If your friend is finding excuses to not turn up for social get-togethers or limiting interactions with you, you may want to find out what's wrong.

World Suicide Prevention Day 2021: It is not so easy to understand a person. Identifying symptoms of depression in people is even more challenging. A friend who's always hiding behind smile may carry an acute feeling of worthlessness. It is likely that many depressed people could also struggle with recurrent suicidal thoughts.

World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD) is observed on September 10 every year in order to raise awareness about suicides and prevent them.(Pixabay)

A depressed person may not be interesting in social interactions and appears withdrawn. If your friend is finding excuses to not turn up for social get-togethers or limiting interactions with you, you may want to find out what's wrong.

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A depressed person can talk about dying, suicide or research ways to end life. Due to poor self-care and lack of appetite, they may lose weight or appear dehydrated. They may look disinterested and not wanting to be helped. Certain individuals may either attempt suicide or succeed in taking their life.

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An individual with depression is 20 times more likely to die by suicide than someone without the disorder.

World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD) is observed on September 10 every year in order to raise awareness about suicides and prevent them. The theme of WSPD 2021, “Creating hope through action,” reflects the need for collective, action to address this urgent public health issue. Suicides can be prevented if depression is identified at eary stages and required treatment is provided to a person.

What is Clinical depression

Clinical depression is a very common form of treatable mental illness, yet it is under-recognized. It occurs in all age groups, commonest being the second to third decade with a slight preponderance in females. It is due to a complex inter-play of genetic, social, environmental and psychological factors.

Symptoms of depression

Feeling sad or low in mood or being irritable, lack of interest in usually pleasurable activities, feeling fatigued without an underlying cause, sleeping too much (hypersomnia) or too little (insomnia), increased or decreased appetite, changes in weight, reduced sex drive, lack of self-esteem, low concentration, forgetfulness, lack of self-care, feeling hopeless, helpless and worthless, thought of suicide or self-harm are some of the symptoms of depression. In severe form of depression, psychotic features and hallucination are common

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Causes of depression

Genetics do play a role in depression and it is known to be familial. Certain other mental health disorders like substance misuse, anxiety disorders like OCD, ADHD can cause depression. Diabetes, Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid), chronic illnesses like Parkinson’s disease, COPD or HIV are known to cause depression. Vitamin B12 and Vitamin D deficiency is associated with depression. Treatment with steroids, beta-blockers, oral contraceptive pills, anti-epileptics and anti-psychotic medication have been associated with depression.

How to help a person deal with depression

Communicate with them

While depressed people like to keep a low profile, it is important to communicate with them on a regular basis. Instead of talking about their symptoms directly, speaking to them in a sensitive and non-judgmental manner is important.

Be a good listener

It is also important to be a good listener around people with depression. Listening to them patiently can be very reassuring. Contrary to the common belief, talking about suicide does not increase the risk and in fact, it may be beneficial to discuss their emotional state.

Help them maintain a routine

In the milder stages, depression can be treated by maintaining a daily routine, eating a balanced diet, getting 6-8 hours of restful sleep, daily exercise, reducing alcohol consumption or smoking cessation, practicing meditation and yoga.

Other helpful techniques

Having a pet, listening to music can also treat depression. Talking about emotional distress or writing a journal or a mood diary can be a useful way of monitoring emotional health.

Treatment of depression

For further stages of depression, a combination of anti-depressant medication, psychological therapy and social intervention are recommended. The medications must be started and monitored on regular basis by a psychiatrist. They are non-addictive and act by correcting the chemical imbalance in the brain.

Various forms of psychotherapy have been found to be effective. The choice of which is made by a psychologist on a case-to-case basis. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) remains the most common psychological modality in the treatment of depression.

Remaining socially connected with family and friends can enhance the mood, keep them motivated and ensure regular appointments with the professionals. They can also alert about any warning signs.

(With inputs from Dr Santosh Bangar, Senior Consultant Psychiatrist, Global Hospital, Parel)

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