We’ve all had days when we felt as though nothing mattered and there was no point to anything; when we either felt too much or nothing at all. We’ve all had feelings of isolation, heaviness, and confusion that absolutely refused to leave. Now imagine those feelings, those waves of negativity, lasting weeks, months and years. Imagine being unable to become excited by good news or even despaired by bad news because most of what you feel is a flat line. Having depression makes you a shell of your former self and it’s damn near impossible to pull yourself up on your own. No one should have to go through it alone so here are three big signs of depression to be on the lookout for in the people close to you.
1. Reclusiveness/Canceling Plans
Many of these signs do not, by any means, always equal depression. This is one of them. Just because your friend bailed on lunch with you last week doesn’t mean they’re clinically depressed and need help. However, when your friend canceled lunch with you last week, coffee the week before, hasn’t been to math class in a few days and has left you on “Read” every time you try to contact them, then you should be worried. Consistently canceling plans and avoiding social contact can be a sign of depression and your friend may be attempting to withdraw completely. Keep reaching out to them and whatever you do, don’t give up. While they may not be responding, they can see that you care and, sometimes, that’s all they need.
2. Saying They’re Depressed
This may seem like a complete, “Duh!” however, we live in a time where nearly everyone has felt depressed at some point in their life, so we associate it more with an emotion than with an illness. What you may wave off as a statement of feeling may be someone’s cry for help and shouldn’t be ignored. It can take a lot of courage for someone to admit to you that they’re sick so that next time you hear someone say, “I’m so depressed,” don’t dismiss it as if they had just said, “I’m so tired.” Ask if they’re alright or if they need help. Sometimes, they really will just be feeling sad or depressed, but there’s always a chance that they actually do need help and chose you to confide in.
3. Signs of Self-Harm
Unfortunately, self-harm is an increasingly common way to deal with depression, anxiety, and other mental illness. Often stereotyped as something “only teenage girls do for attention” or “not a real problem because it’s self-inflicted”, self-injury is a serious cry for help that too many people feel is the only way to feel better. Contrary to popular belief, it is not limited to cutting, though that is the most common form it takes. In addition to cutting, it can also include scratching, burning, overdosing, and many other things. Signs to look for can include fresh scars or wounds that don’t seem to be healing, long sleeves or pants in warm weather, picking or scratching at a certain area, and other unusual injuries typically on the arms, legs, and torso. More information, including what to do if you suspect some close to you is self-harming, can be found here.
Attempts to help people in this sort of state may feel like you’re overstepping boundaries but clinical depression is a slippery slope and can lead to much more and worse problems. Don’t let those close to you suffer alone. Be there for them and help them through it.
If you think someone you know may be suicidal or heading in that direction, don’t keep quiet, especially if they ask you to. You do have the power to save someone’s life. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is open 24/7 and can be reached at 1-800-273-8255. Their website also has a lot of great resources and can be found here.