Given the statistics of depression that are handled in Spain today, it is more than likely that at a time of life, perhaps this very, anyone need to accompany the depressive process a family member or friends or the experiment. This article is intended as an introductory approach to accompanying guidelines. Under this logic, the first thing that should be specified is that the role of the companion does not lie in diagnosing, nor that of intervening, nor that of being an informal therapist, but that his role consists of support .
Although many of the guidelines that will be presented are valid for any type of disorder related to mental health , in this particular case depression is considered. Thus, depression can be defined as: “Certain episodes of at least two weeks duration (although most episodes last considerably longer), involving changes in mood, with a sad, empty or irritable, accompanied by somatic and cognitive changes that affect functional capacity “.
The main symptoms associated with depression, according to diagnostic manuals, can be a depressed state most of the day, insomnia , lack of energy, loss of concentration, decreased interest in pleasant activities, or loss of self-esteem. However, every psychological disorder presents variability in its manifestation across different people, so it is quite possible that particular cases do not fully fit into this diagnostic typology. In addition, we speak of depression in general terms, when there is a wide range of depressive disorders that present differences between the manifestation and severity of each one. In any case, it is crucial to return to the original idea of the article:the role of the companion does not respond to diagnosing , so the technical information that the companion possesses about depression must serve as its own orientation, as a tool to anticipate what one may find in the behavior of the person going through a depressive process , and never with the aim of evaluating the state of the person he is accompanying.
The initial phase
In many cases we will accompany a friend or family member who has been diagnosed with depression. However, there may be other situations in which, without any prior diagnosis, we detect that that person is going through a problem in their life. Perhaps we notice him strange, distant, expressionless … We are the ones who know him best, in such a way that we will quickly know that something is not right . It is worth reiterating the idea that our role is not to make a clinical diagnosis, but we do have a very important function when it comes to detecting problems.
If a person is perceived to be going through a troublesome trance, accompanying guidelines are based on support and advice. We must find a comfortable environment, perhaps we can talk to two close people with him or her, to establish a conversation with two objectives: the first of them is to ask if something is wrong, always trying to ask very open questions and leaving enough space and time to that the person verbalize a situation that may be very complex. Second, offer our unconditional support. Without judging, without taking control of the situation, but always making our availability clear.
Face the day to day
It is quite possible that the person feels that the problem they have can be solved on their own. At other times they will prefer to ask a professional for help. We must be clear that the person in charge of the situation must be the person who experiences it , so it is important to provide some space and make recommendations in a very open tone. For example: “Maybe between a therapist and us we would help you overcome this situation sooner.” Trying to force someone to take a path can be perceived as an attack. Counseling is necessary in a depressive process, since one of the characteristics of depression is being in a situation of paralysisthat prevents the development of functional activities. But the companion must encourage and advise, never impose.
Something similar happens with the consumption of psychotropic drugs . There is a widespread tendency to administer psychotropic drugs in the event of any sign of depression, even without being correctly diagnosed. The person must decide to take psychotropic drugs or not, and in this case the support would consist of seeking reliable information about their use, finding out about side effects, the possible dependence that it may cause, and if necessary, requesting second professional opinions in this regard. . It should be taken into account that psychotropic drugs do not suppose any solution to the problem of origin of depression, as this is not a medical or biological syndrome. We are thus faced with substances that can help improve mood, in order to allow the development of more activities. However, the solution to depression is in the implementation of therapy designed by the psychologist.
One of the main problems with mental disorders is that they tend to develop over long periods of time. The helplessness felt by the person who goes through them, as well as that of close people who try to help and cannot, end up generating feelings of guilt in all parts, which only aggravate the situation.
In this light, it must be understood that trust, support and understanding are the best possible help. Also, that the entire accompaniment process must be scheduled with the person experiencing depression, in this case. On many occasions the person will need to be alone, and will need space . At other times you will need to be with someone. It is quite possible, however, that the person with depression refuses to do tasks, put their usual activities aside. Also that you want to leave home or cancel plans at the last minute. This type of behavior is usually a source of conflict with friends and family, so it is best to schedule commitments.
In this way, if family and friends can explicitly agree on activities to be developed with the person experiencing depression. For example, “on Tuesdays we will go to the pool” or “on Fridays we will go out to dinner.” These commitments reached can be put in writing, to serve as an incentive or reminder in case the person refuses to carry out the activity when the time comes. It is important that they are not imposed activities, but rather that they are activities agreed between both parties.
Feeling of loneliness
Another common situation in psychological disorders is the feeling of loneliness and / or misunderstanding. Accompanying persons must show their unconditional support, but must also specify their availability very meticulously . Thus, if a companion does not answer a call in the morning, it should be clear that he is not doing it because he is working, for example, and not because he does not want to answer that call.
More sources of support
Much of the information discussed here can be found in many practical guides for family members. A particularly interesting one is “Saldremos de Esta”, written by the psychologist Javier Erro and published by the Primera Vocal group, which you can find in PDF .
You should go to material written by professionals: scientific web pages, books or association guides, never to sources of doubtful reliability, forums or social networks.
Finally, there are many associations that focus on depression, with peer support groups for family, friends, and people experiencing the disorder. The latter is the best source of help and information.