In 2017, 6.7% of the adult population in the US reported having at least one major depressive episode. In this co-living guide, we answer a common query: my roommate is depressed; how can I help?
What is depression?
Experiencing grief, feeling blue or down are common human emotions. Everyone has felt it at one point or the other. However, depression is a persistent condition, which should be diagnosed by a qualified professional.
Depression is a treatable medical condition with varying degrees of severity. It can hamper an individual’s day-to-day functioning and cause them distress. If your roommate is depressed, they may feel helpless, have a bleak outlook on the future, and evaluate themselves as worthless. Understandably, this condition affects not only the individual but also the people around them. Hence, it can be challenging to live with a depressed roommate.
How to provide support if your roommate is depressed?
The high prevalence of depression among American adults indicates you will live with a depressed roommate at some point or the other. Mental health struggles can take a huge toll on a person, and as a good roommate, you should know how to provide support to a roommate who is depressed. While adjusting to a depressed roommate may require a little more compromise and understanding, there are numerous ways to extend your support.
A safe environment
Creating a safe, open, and empathetic environment is the first step in helping your depressed roommate. Mental health is a sensitive topic, and your roommate may take some time to open up to you. Don’t be offended if you’re not the first person they turn to, as they may not feel comfortable sharing their struggles with you just yet.
When the time arises, ensure respectful communication. Active listening is important to help create an empathetic and safe environment. Providing them with a safe environment shows that you are willing to be a part of their support system.
Recognizing the symptoms
Depression needs to be diagnosed by a qualified professional. However, there are certain signs to watch out for if you think your roommate is depressed. Common signs of depression include low energy and motivation (sometimes even getting out of bed may feel like a chore to them) and loss of interest in usual activities. You will notice a marked change in your roommate, where they may stop participating in activities that would bring them joy.
You may also notice that your roommate has anxiety, which commonly occurs with depression. Additionally, you may also notice physical symptoms such as a change in their sleeping pattern, constant complaints of headaches and body aches, along with a change in their appetite. Knowing these common signs of depression is helpful, as it can help you understand your roommate better. Sometimes, it could also help with early intervention where you encourage your roommate to get treatment.
Be supportive of their treatment.
Depression is a treatable disease with the help of therapy, and sometimes, medication. However, the stigma attached to mental health can often prevent people from getting this help. If you notice your roommate is depressed or has anxiety, be sure to show your support.
Try not to be too critical of their behavior, encourage them to get treatment, and be supportive. However, don’t take it personally if they refuse your help; it may not be easy for them to rely on others for help.
Avoid enabling harmful behavior.
A drink or two with your roommate every once in a while can be a good bonding opportunity, but look out for warning signs. Sometimes, people may turn to drugs or alcohol to get some relief. However, this can only lead to severe consequences in the long term, worsening the situation.
If you’re looking for ways to connect with your roommate, try board games or brainstorm other activities instead.
Encourage helpful activities
Often, people with depression have difficulty completing their daily chores, as they do not find a purpose. Instead of getting into arguments, try to propose activities they enjoy. Goal-based activities such as gardening, cooking, or baking could encourage them and help them get out of bed. Be careful not to push them to do too many things simultaneously, as it may be overwhelming for them.
A comfortable home
Living in a messy environment is not fun for anyone; while you should not have to take on the burden of completing their chores, consider helping in smaller ways. If you have some free time, you can complete some smaller tasks or tidy up the house. Consider adding houseplants to your apartment, as it can help boost their mood (and yours!).
When living with a depressed roommate, you may have to be a little more understanding and make more compromises. Continue to be supportive of their treatment, and encourage them to get the help that they need. Although there is a limit to what help from family and friends can do, having a strong support system is crucial.
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