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How to read signs that a loved one is depressed

Noor Anand Chawla

Published

4:46 am IST

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The suicide of Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput left the world shocked. It seems depression caused this promising life to end too soon. Mental health issues rear their ugly head at the most trying times in a person’s life, never more evident than in the last three months. As our nation has been under forced lockdown, people have been negatively affected in numerous ways, including economic strife, recurring loneliness, unaddressed health concerns or feeling trapped in a situation they have no control over.

More often than not, persons suffering from mental health issues are not aware of their own problem. Hence, they are highly unlikely to confide their feelings to others. Some blame themselves for the incidents that have led to them feeling down and out, and some don’t trust people to be open-minded and accepting.

Life can be brutal and people going through this difficult period need care and attention, ideally from a family member or friend sensitised to the situation. It is our responsibility to be vigilant by being attuned to the needs of those close to us, and watching for distinct indications of trouble.

Here are a few signs that will help in recognising if a loved one is depressed:

MOOD SWINGS

A quick temper or a general propensity to go from being extremely happy to excessively sad, are usually signs of mental health issues. Every person that suffers from mood swings is not depressed, but if these incidents happen too often, a conversation with the affected person should be initiated to speak about what might be troubling him/her.

 EATING DISORDERS

A significant decrease in appetite or inordinate increase in one’s food consumption could be indicative of overall unhappiness. Depression may stem directly from body dysmorphic issues, but eating disorders are often symptoms and not the cause of depression. It is not easy to check on what and how much is being eaten, if one is not living with the concerned person, but if depression is suspected, simple queries like what they ate for lunch may be introduced into the conversation.

LETHARGY

The clearest manifestation of depression is lethargy or a lack of desire to be productive. Sleeping all day and night, neglecting personal hygiene, making frequent excuses to bunk school or work, ignoring phone calls from near and dear ones; all point toward being generally discontented with life.

DESIRE FOR SECLUSION

Mental health sufferers prefer to keep to themselves even when sharing space with others. A depressive person may insist on staying locked in his or her room for most of the day, only coming out for basic necessities. He/she may be unwilling to participate in general conversation or help with house-work of any manner. It may seem hard to break through his/her unwillingness to share feelings, but we should persist in our endeavours.

CHANGE IN BEHAVIOUR

This point may seem too general, but it may be the first indication of mental health problems. Watch for significant changes in personal behaviour or reactions to situations. If a calm and composed person seems jumpy and full of angst all of a sudden, there is something troubling them. Similarly, an otherwise feisty and pushy person suddenly being meek or quiet, should be a cause for concern. Watch for any and all behavioural changes and address them openly with the concerned person.

It is of utmost importance to keep the conversation lines open and free of judgement of any kind. If a loved one is indeed suffering from depression or other mental health issues, he/she will not be willing to open up so easily. However, timely recognition of tell-tale signs and gentle intervention, may help to turn the situation around before it is too late. If nothing changes despite best efforts, do not be afraid to take professional help. Societal judgement or lack of financial resources should not be deterrents in standing up for a depressive loved one. After all, it may be a matter of life and death.

The writer is a lawyer who pens lifestyle articles on her successful blog www.nooranandchawla.com. She can be found on Instagram @nooranandchawla.

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