Before we begin speaking about how to spot depression in a mate, I think it is so important to understand that depression reveals itself in different ways from person to person. No one person is exactly the same, nor are their symptoms. Some people have a tremendous ability to hide their pain that you may never know about. I call this ‘smiling depression’. Working out if someone has depression can be difficult to identify even if you are a mental health professional.
As a mate, it is important to have a simple understanding of how to know when someone is struggling and how to offer your help and support, so that they can get back on track and start living again.
Check out some of the symptoms below that might indicate someone is struggling with depression:
- Not going out as much anymore
- Reduced productivity at home, work, school
- Difficulties concentrating
- Not doing the things that usually bring pleasure
- Lacking in confidence
- “I’m a failure”
- “Nothing I do is good enough”
- “It’s all my fault”
- “What if”
- “People would be better off without me”
- Tired all the time
- Sick and run down
- Sleeping difficulties
- Eating less/more than usual
- Pains in the gut
Please do not discount the symptoms above, and if you notice these in yourself or someone else that could definitely be your trigger to reach out and explore what’s going on.
That said, while it is great having a checklist like that above to help simplify things for us, one of the most important things is knowing your mates well, and if you notice anything about them that differs from how they typically behave, that could be your invitation to reach out and ask ‘Hey mate, how are you going. How are you really going?'.
Keep this very simple and casual. Be honest with your mate and ask, for example, 'Mate, I sense that you haven’t been yourself lately, is everything ok? Is there something that I can help you with?'. Another good way to encourage your mates to speak up and seek help is to offer your support and time.
For example, 'Would it help if I came with you and we see a psychologist together? Would it make you feel more comfortable to talk about this in a place you feel safe?'. Checking in from time to time on text can also make a huge difference. Giving your mate the time to explain how they feel and listening without judgment could be the difference between seeing someone live or die – this is the harsh reality.
Human beings are usually very routine based, so if you begin to see shifts in someone’s ‘normal’, that is probably the most reliable indicator/ symptom that someone might be struggling.
In summary, if you are not a mental health professional you still have the power to change and potentially save a life. Having an understanding of all the different types of mental illnesses (like depression, anxiety etc.) is a nice to have if you’re interested in this stuff, but not essential if you simply want to help someone. What is most important is reaching out, doing something, taking action if you notice that your mate is acting a little differently than usual – leave the diagnostic stuff to qualified mental health professionals.
If you are reading this and you are struggling to reach out and ask for help, remember, you are not a burden and people do care. Do it for yourself and, if not for you, do it for the people that love you.
If depression is affecting your life or you need someone to talk to, please do not suffer in silence. Support is available here.
Lifeline: 13 11 14
Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467
Beyondblue: 1300 224 636