According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are an estimated 86 million people living with depression in Southeast Asia, making it one of the most densely populated regions in terms of those suffering from the disease. To put it into perspective, that’s nearly one-third of the world’s depressed population, all living in Southeast Asia.
In part, the shockingly high number above is the result of a lack of research around the topic in this region, as well as the absence of preventative measures commonly seen in Western societies. However, mental health issues like depression have commonly been stigmatised in Asian culture, making it difficult for those suffering to get the help they require.
Depression is a complex illness, and it may manifest differently from person-to-person. Sometimes it’s short-term, other times a condition someone may battle for years and years. WHO characterises depression as “persistent sadness and a loss of interest in activities that you normally enjoy, accompanied by an inability to carry out daily activities.” Depression signs and symptoms may also include decreased energy, excessive sleeping, restlessness, guilt, and thoughts of self-harm.
Fortunately, depression is a treatable illness; if someone you love is suffering from depression, it’s important to seek the help of a medical professional specialising in mental health first and foremost. However, you can also help encourage them along the way. In honour of Mental Health Awareness Month, we're sharing some practical tips for supporting a loved one struggling with depression, without sacrificing your own needs.
5 Ways to Help Support a Loved One with Depression
Eliminate Judgement & Just Be Present
Depression may not always make sense to those who haven’t experienced it. But the last thing you want a loved one battling depression to feel is judged or criticised during their bouts of depression. Instead of trying to amend the situation or lift their spirits just be present during their hard times. Sometimes lending a listening ear if the most helpful thing you can provide.
Offer a Helping Hand With Everyday Tasks
Focusing on everyday tasks can be difficult for someone suffering from depression. They’re oftentimes already overwhelmed by the day ahead of them, so help out by offering to pick up some of the slack. Offer to run simple errands like grocery shopping, complete household chores like laundry or dishes, make doctor’s appointments or dinner plans. Every little bit counts!
The more you know about depression, the better equipped you are to help a loved one through tough times. Educate yourself on the various types of depression, the illness as a whole, triggers and effective treatments and therapies. Organizations like the Malaysian Mental Health Association and WHO provide a variety of resources and information on the topic of mental health to help you learn how to navigate depression with your loved ones.
Don’t Take It Personally
One of the most important things to remember when supporting someone struggling with depression is not to take your loved one’s behavior personally. While it may feel like they’re irritable, purposefully shutting you out or avoiding you, or just not themselves, keep in mind that it is likely not because of anything you have or have not done.
Don’t Abandon Your Own Self-Care
Finally, never forget about your own self throughout this process. It’s easy to get into a negative funk when supporting your loved one through depression, so take time to do things you love, too! Exercise, take a bubble bath, get outside for a walk, have coffee with a friend, read a good book or meditate - whatever it is, taking a few moments for yourself each day will make all the difference in the world. Taking time for yourself allows you to recharge, keep a positive mindset and continue being a supportive partner to those you love most.