When a friend or loved one is struggling, it can be hard to know where to start. While symptoms of depression generally include sadness and apathy, the signs can vary, particularly in relation to men.
Words by Robert Dunne. Movember New Zealand Country Manager.
Anger and irritability
As opposed to sadness and withdrawal, men are more likely to experience anger and irritability as a result of depression.
“If your friend or partner seems to snap more easily than they used to or seems unusually quick to lose their temper or becomes verbally hostile towards others, that may be a sign they’re struggling and need your support,” she said.
Loss of appetite
Depression can affect our appetite and change our relationship with food – it can cause us to eat more than usual or it can lead to a loss of appetite.
“If someone you are close to is routinely eating less than usual, shows little interest in food, or perhaps has put on or lost a significant amount of weight, it could be a sign that they are struggling,” the expert explained.
Fatigue is another sign of depression that is often missed.
If a loved one reports sleeping problems that go beyond the occasional bad night, either sleeping too little or too much, having trouble getting out of bed in the morning or feeling constantly fatigued (where there is no obvious physical cause), they may need some mental health support. Persistent head, stomach, or muscle pains (especially if there is no other discernible medical cause) can also be clues that something is amiss.
If someone close to you begins to display difficulty in making decisions that once would have come easily to them, it might be an indication they are feeling low.
“People with depression tend to avoid decision-making and are slower to make decisions. One reason for this is that motivation is impaired in people with depression and without it, the rewards of making a decision are reduced,” she continued.
Loss of interest
While it is normal to feel sad and lack motivation sometimes, if your friend or loved one is opting out of activities they used to enjoy, it can be a real red flag.
“Skipping drinks at the pub or football training, making excuses when you suggest meeting up or if they seem to have dropped hobbies or friends, they may be struggling with their mental health,” added Sarah.
Ways to help
If you are concerned about a friend or loved one, there are practical steps you can take to offer your support like the ALEC model.
ALEC is a four step approach to tackle important conversations with the men in your life.
Start by mentioning anything different you’ve noticed. Maybe he’s spending more time at the bar, coming into work late, or missing social events.
“You’ve not quite seemed yourself recently. Are you okay?”
Trust your instinct. Remember, we often say “I’m fine” when we’re not. So if you think something’s wrong, don’t be afraid to ask twice.
Try to give him your full attention, without interruptions. Don’t feel you have to diagnose problems, offer solutions or give advice. Just let him know you’re all ears, judgement-free.
Follow-up questions are good too. They’ll help let him know you’re listening:
“That can’t be easy. How long have you felt that way?”
Help him focus on simple things that might improve how he feels. Is he getting enough sleep? Is he exercising and eating well? Maybe there’s something that’s helped him in the past – it’s worth asking.
Suggest that he share how he’s feeling with others he trusts. This will make things easier for both of you. And if he’s felt low for more than two weeks, suggest that he chat to his doctor.
Suggest you catch up soon – in person if you can. If you can’t manage a meet-up, make time for a call, or drop him a message. This helps to show that you care; plus, you’ll get a feel for whether he’s feeling any better.
If you’re ever worried that someone’s life is in immediate danger, call 111 or go directly to emergency services.
1737 Need To Talk (1737)
The Suicide Crisis Helpline (0508 828 865), or Lifeline (0800 543 354)