How to Talk to the (Suspected) Clinically Depressed

Today, in Australia, is R U OK? Day. It’s a day to promote talking about all kinds of mental health issues, such as depression. In light of this important day (for me, at least), and because this IS a depression blog of sorts, I think it would be fitting to make a post on this day. Also, this is overdue… so let’s get into it. #itsoktotalk

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Depression is quite a delicate thing to manage and control. It requires an immense amount of self-reflection, self-determination (or self-motivation), and an EXTREMELY delicate balance between humility and pride.

Just like one’s diet, any one persistent change can have debilitating effects on the mental health of an individual, regardless of age, nationality, culture, or gender…or really, ANY human attribute. And we ALL know that mental, emotional, and physical health are all intricately intertwined within the biology, chemistry, and physics of our human body. Not to mention the social, economic, political, cultural, and environmental influences, which shape us and alter the already-entangled mess that is our overall wellbeing…

So in other words, like my relationship status: it’s complicated.

Now, I will say this up front, I AM NO PROFESSIONAL. In fact, I’m about as far-removed from a professional as anyone could get. But if I can just put my two cents into this issue, then please read on.

Now then, the first question…

What are the signs of someone suffering clinical depression?

If anything, the number one thing that sets most people apart as depressed is having a sense of withdrawal for more than three months. A chronic disease is clinically said to be any disease which persists for any longer than three months. Depression, being a chronic disease, tends to fall into this category, but this doesn’t automatically mean anyone who has a feeling of withdrawal has clinical depression.

Case in point: grieving. It can be really tough to move on from someone’s death, no matter who it is. In my lifetime, I’ve attended two commemorative services for those in my life. However, I know at least four other people who I would’ve attended their services, if it weren’t for academic or filial dedications. Death moves us, but sometimes we don’t want it to move us. Sometimes we wish to stay in one moment, reliving all the wonderful things we did with that lost someone.

Which is why I feel that clinical depression can be a bit over-diagnosed at times. Asian cultures will permit the consumption of alcohol, and the attendance of social gatherings, ONLY after at least one year of grieving. Confucius, the great Ancient Chinese philosopher, wrote in Di Zi Gui – Standards for being a Good Pupil and Child this particular recommendation. If I remember correctly, he suggested three years instead of just one, but in light of current modern scientific mental health studies, I would beg otherwise.

If anything, it depends on what has happened to them in the past, and what they’re thoughts on the issue are. But that’s up to them if they want to share their opinion about what’s happening. If you are one of those people who can’t decide on who to trust, please check out Choosing Confidants on my blog page.

Side note: R U OK? Day is a great opportunity to talk to anyone about whether they struggle with their mental health. Please check for all mental health services which apply to your country, but here are a few I’ve gathered for Australians.

I wouldn’t be alive without ALL of them…seriosuly, they’ve helped me through a lot.
Remember, suicide hotlines are NOT JUST for those in immediate danger.

24 Hours a Day, 7 Days a Week Services
Beyond Blue:
Call 1300 22 4636 (in Australia) https://www.beyondblue.org.au/
Lifeline Australia: Call 13 11 14 (in Australia)  https://www.lifeline.org.au/
Suicide Call Back Service: Call 1300 659 467 (in Australia) www.suicidecallbackservice.org.au
MensLine Australia: Call 1300 78 99 78 (in Australia) www.menslineaus.org.au
Kids Helpline: Call 1800 55 1800 (in Australia) https://kidshelpline.com.au/

Other Information Websites
Suicide Prevention Australia: https://www.suicidepreventionaust.org/
Headspace: https://www.headspace.org.au/
Reach Out Australia: http://au.reachout.com/

#itsoktotalk

How do I talk to them?

If someone is setting off alarm bells for you, first thing to do is to get them to be with you, alone. Once you get their sole attention, gently ask them “Are you okay?”

Literally say that in as nice and as sincere of a voice as you can. Not sweetly like a little kid; people can misinterpret that as being sarcastic or being insincere (because they may have social insecurities). Tell them that you’re concerned about them, and it’s okay if they don’t want to talk about everything that’s bothering them…but that you want to listen to them. Tell them that hopefully they can feel better by talking about their problems.

And if they do have a problem, and once the ball starts rolling… ACTIVELY LISTEN!

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You need to reassure them with visual cues (e.g.: nodding, occasional eye-to-eye contact) and verbal cues (e.g.: saying “mhmm”, “yeah”, “uhuh”). They will begin to distrust you if you don’t actively listen to them, so try to keep them talking about their issues. Let them finish their train of thought, so that they feel a sense of catharsis once they finish having the convo with you.

Not only that, but really try to understand WHY they feel this way. Ask about why things appear a certain way to them, with caution and their permission, of course. It will be very hard for the person you’re talking to, but try to promote coming up with a solution for the time being, like seeing a counsellor of some kind. And if you want to make sure you’re doing the best you can to help them,  I would suggest trying to write down the information you’ve retained in a diary (WITH THEIR PERMISSION!!!) after you’ve had time to process it. That way, you can keep a track of what they’ve said, and try to help them logic their way out of their rut with their evidence.

And then…you have to check up on them. Not only once, but multiple and regular times, preferably a few days or a week apart. The more times you talk to them, the more they will realise how sincere you are, and the more likely it is they will get out of their depressing rut.

Thank you for reading this dedicated post. Mental health…is really stigmatised, and we all need to get our heads out of this fear of being teased for our problems. Our mind is our greatest asset, yet it’s our greatest killer when we don’t care for it.

Like, share, comment, subscribe. You know all this by now.

And as always, #itsoktotalk and DFTBA.

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