In the middle of a pandemic, we’re all dealing with a collective trauma that is changing a lot of our behaviors, especially our moods, our world views, and our sense of hope. It’s more important now than ever before to stay tuned to the well-being of your friends and family. Let’s explore what depression is and how you can help during these difficult times.
While pandemic depression is not a formal mental illness recognized by the APA, depression during a pandemic is. In fact, clinical depression is still the most common mental illness in America. Now, with 1 in 3 Americans showing symptoms of depression and anxiety, it’s possible someone close to you is coping with depression as a result of quarantine and self-isolation. But how can you know if your loved one is depressed, or merely feeling a little blue?
Depression vs. Sadness
Depression and sadness are two very different things. Sadness is a mood, and like any other mood, it can last for a few hours to maybe a few days. Depression, on the other hand, is a mood disorder in which long stretches of hopelessness can last for weeks or months at a time. This is an important distinction that mental health experts want to underline; sadness will dissipate, while depression remains unless treated.
Symptoms of Depression
If you think a loved one is coping with depression, it’s important to note any symptoms that you can observe yourself. These symptoms may include the following:
- Low energy
- Lack of interest
- Changes in weight and appetite
- Sleep disturbance
Your loved one may also verbally express signs of depression, such as feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, confusion, guilt, or persistent low mood that does not go away. Passive thoughts of self-harming, such as dark humor pertaining to dying, and comments about “giving up” are also potential signs of depression.
What You Can Do to Help
If you think your friend or a member of your family is at risk of causing themselves harm, then it is essential you reach out to mental health hotlines as soon as possible. However, if your loved one is not exhibiting signs of self-harm, then there are a few things you can do to support them as they cope with depression symptoms. Here are a few ways:
Reaching out is an important step and can include contact through social media, texting, or phone calls. Your loved one may not reach back, but it is still vital for them to know that they are not alone.
Along the same vein, you should let your loved one know that you care about them unconditionally. You can show your support by sending care packages, sitting quietly with them, or respecting requests for space. Stay positive, but take care not to be pushy about “normal” behaviors.
You can also gently suggest your loved one reach out for mental health support. There are hotlines and telehealth therapy resources nationwide that your loved one can tap into to find coping strategies to help them manage symptoms.
If you feel that you can recognize symptoms of depression in your friends and family during this pandemic, then you should try your best to give them support. From reminding them they are loved to guiding them toward mental health resources, there are plenty of ways you can help your loved one who is coping with depression.