Feeling down or depressed from time to time is normal. But if these feelings last two weeks or more, or start to affect everyday life, this can be a sign of depression.
Depression can develop slowly. Someone who is depressed doesn't always realise or acknowledge that they're not feeling or behaving as they usually do.
Often it's a partner, family member or carer who first realises that help is needed. They may encourage their friend or relative to see their GP or find some other source of support.
Signs that someone may be depressed
Depression has lots of possible symptoms. You may notice that someone:
- has lost interest in doing things they normally enjoy
- seems to be feeling down or hopeless
- has slower speech and movements or is more fidgety and restless than usual
- feels tired or doesn’t have much energy
- is overeating or has lost their appetite
- is sleeping more than usual or isn’t able to sleep
- has trouble concentrating on everyday things, such as watching the television or reading the paper
See some more symptoms of depression.
Signs of depression in older people
The charity Age UK says that signs of depression in older people can include:
- empty fridges and cupboards (which suggest a poor diet)
- neglected appearance
- poor hygiene
- someone showing little joy in receiving visitors
Age Scotland has a factsheet with ideas and advice on looking after your mental wellbeing.
If you are worried an older person is depressed you can advise them to call Silver Line Scotland on 0800 4 70 80 90 for free, confidential help.
Tips to help someone who seems down
If someone you know is feeling low, you can offer the following help:
- learn as much as you can about their condition
- encourage the person to seek help and support and offer to accompany them to appointments if they are anxious about going
- remember depression is an illness, so don't expect them to recover straight away, encourage them to look after themselves and don't expect miracles
- reassure them that they are still loved and cared for
- helping a loved one with depression can put a huge strain on you so make sure to look after yourself
- get support either informally through family and friends or through carers' organisations such as Carers Trust Scotland
When to get help urgently
If the person you're worried about expresses suicidal feelings, you or they should contact a GP or call the NHS 24 '111' service. You can also call Breathing Space on 0800 83 85 87 (Mon-Fri 6pm to 2am and 24 hours at the weekend) or Samaritans on 116 123 for confidential, non-judgemental emotional support.
You can read more about the role of family and friends in supporting loved ones with mental health problems, including personal stories, at See Me Scotland.