When you suspect that someone close to you is suffering from some form of mental challenge, being there in any way possible for them can be a life-changing experience for both you and your friend.
With the ever-evolving world of mental illnesses and the impact they are making throughout our daily lives from mass shootings to domestic abuse, there couldn’t be a more important time to raise awareness, eliminate the stigma, and support those in need.
One of these conditions of “brain pain” that affects new parents typically within the first three months but up to a year is postpartum depression. PPD is a mood disorder that can affect both the mother and father through a range of emotional and physical symptoms.
While a majority of new parents may go through the “baby blues”, these symptoms only last up to two weeks. PPD lasts longer and requires a stronger network of intervention and support.
The trouble that most people who are affected by mood disorders face is that they feel alone, guilty, and ashamed of what they are going through. These difficult emotions make it hard for people to speak out and seek support. This emphasizes the importance of friends stepping in and showing up for that person.
Often overlooked and not discussed enough, friends can play a massive role in shortening the duration of PPD, easing the severity of symptoms, and helping with seeking treatment.
How to recognize signs of PostPartum Depression in a friend
I believe everyone should have a general understanding of mood disorders to help with awareness, education, and support.
While this is a tall order to ask for, being able to recognize a change in mood, shift in attitude, or a different demeanour in your friend is the first step in acknowledging there could be a mental illness present.
At this point, education becomes critical in understanding the symptoms that your friend is showing and what they may be related to.
As this article is aimed at supporting a friend with PPD, the underlying purpose can be applied to any situation with a mental condition.
Here are some common signs to look out for with postpartum depression:
- Significant mood swings: Very obvious sadness, depression, and crying
- Loss of interest– they no longer enjoy things they once did or have any interest
- Overly irritable: Becoming easily agitated at small issues that typically would not bother them in the past
- Social withdrawal: Not wanting to interact with friends and family, noticeable symptoms of isolation
- Overwhelmed: Frequently overwhelmed with daily tasks accompanied by the new responsibility of parenting
- Anxiety: They express deep concerns over the health and safety of the baby and are constantly worried about them
- Guilt and worthlessness: They blame themselves constantly and feel inadequate at their new role of parenting
How to help a friend with PostPartum Depression
Now that we have covered some common symptoms of PPD, what’s next?
How can someone who recognizes a significant mood shift accompanied by a slew of symptoms and help a friend with PostPartum Depression?
One place to start is with the acronym ALO. Ask, listen, and offer support. This is a simple yet effective way of showing you care and are there for them in whatever way possible.
We don’t need to overanalyze and complicate things when just being there for a friend who is struggling with a mood disorder can be the most beneficial thing at that time.
Pretending that nothing is wrong and they will snap out of it could create a bad chain of reaction resulting in a longer recovery time.
Choosing the right time and place
As you have educated yourself and have a basic understanding of PPD, finding a good time and place to confront your friend is critical. Pick a comfortable location, outdoors even like a park to have a conversation with your friend about what you are noticing.
Empathetic and non-judgmental listening
Let your friend know that you are here for them no matter what and validate their feelings through non-judgmental listening. Tell them it is okay that what they are going through does not define who they are and with the support they will overcome it.
Encouraging open communication
Initiating an honest line of communication from the beginning will help break down the walls of insecurity that your friend may be feeling with their PPD. If you have struggled with emotional challenges as well, let them know that so they feel they are not alone in their battle.
Providing reassurance and validation
As mentioned before, validating their feelings will help them appreciate that they are not defined by what they are experiencing and will soon get through it. Reassuring them you are there and will be there can make a huge difference in their perspective on overcoming PPD.
Putting yourself in their shoes can provide a deeper connection for you to understand their pain and help them work through it.
Offer Practical Help
Here’s how you can offer practical help:
Assisting with daily chores and tasks
Offering to chip in with cleaning the house, filling up a car with gas, or even mowing the lawn may seem like a small favor to you, but could provide a tremendous amount of relief for your friend who is already overwhelmed with the emotions they are experiencing.
We all know how the “to-do list” can nag at us with even the smallest things, imagine struggling with PPD on top of it! No offer is too big or small at this stage, and sometimes just the thought is enough for your friend to know they are not alone and have a supportive and caring companion by their side.
Babysitting and childcare support
Lack of sleep can be a significant factor in some cases of PPD. Becoming a new parent can be daunting and finding the time to rest can be almost non-existent.
Providing support through watching your friend’s baby for a couple of hours so they can catch up on sleep or just relax will benefit them greatly.
Even making this a weekly responsibility on your end at the same time of day on certain days can help regulate and schedule a positive sleep pattern for everyone.
Meal preparation or food delivery
What to make for dinner? The daunting question every person faces even without struggling with PPD.
Meal prepping is the solution to taking the guesswork and effort out of worrying what dinner is that night, or even lunch for the week. You can even meal prep at your house and bring it over for them to just pop in the oven.
Setting up a schedule with other friends will prove many hands make light work, and would alleviate the heavy burden that new parents face with making food.
Also, offering to go grocery shopping especially if your friend is feeling isolated and experiencing social withdrawal will eliminate the stress of having to go out in public with their overwhelming emotions.
Being supportive but also pushing the ball in your friend’s court through self-care can be a productive approach to dealing with PPD.
Let’s say you were to babysit for a couple of hours, encourage your friend to get out and exercise, or go for a jog to change up the scenery.
Engaging in something active and physical stimulates positive chemicals in your body that make you feel good, confident, and energized.
Encourage Professional Help
Discuss the importance of seeking professional treatment
After you have established your supportive role with your friend through the previous steps discussed in this article, it is important to have a discussion about seeking professional help with them.
While not every case of PPD may require long-term professional help, it is important to bring awareness to this and educate your friend on the options and benefits.
Offer to help find a therapist or counsellor
With the understanding you have of what professional help can do for someone with PPD, provide some direction in finding a therapist or counsellor.
While not everyone is a good fit for a therapist or counsellor, it is important to at least have these options and try it out.
Assist in making appointments
Taking the first step in making an appointment for someone struggling with a mood disorder can be a terrifying ordeal. That’s where your support is needed. Just making a phone call to schedule an appointment for someone can be the ice breaker for seeking professional help.
It establishes a commitment for your friend and a responsibility to uphold with at least giving professional help a shot.
Provide transportation if needed
While everyone may be booked and the needle is pointing in the right direction, the thought of getting out of the house and to your appointment can hold people back.
Don’t let that thought cross their mind and tell them you will be there to drive them and wait for them while they are in their session, assuming you have the time.
Just knowing that someone else is involved in this process of seeking professional help can be that motivational push that people struggling with PPD need.
Being there as a listening ear
Ask, listen, and offer support. ALO. This is the acronym I presented at the beginning of this article and applies to many situations throughout life.
It is especially relevant when emotional support is needed for someone struggling with PPD. Asking how they are feeling, and LISTENING to their responses without judging but validating allows them to talk about what they are going through.
Talk therapy has been proven to have dramatic benefits for people working through challenging situations. Think of all the times you felt the need to talk to someone about a difficult situation and how relieved you were afterward.
Let them know you always have an open door for them to approach you with anything, anytime, anywhere.
Sharing resources and information
Educating yourself on PPD will better prepare you not only for the symptoms that your friend is experiencing but other resources and information that can be helpful as they work through their challenges.
Knowing local support groups or organizations that they can rely on will be another supportive arm in battling this mood disorder.
Understanding statistics will create comfort for them that THEY ARE NOT ALONE and many other people have gone through what they are going through and with proper support and treatment have become better.
Providing emotional support and comfort
Sometimes sending a simple text throughout the day of, “Hey been thinking of you and letting you know I’m here whenever you need” can completely switch someone’s mood from sombre to positive.
This type of emotional support and comfort is critical for your friend to know you are here and they are not alone.
ALO!! Ask, listen, and offer support.
If you are to take away only one thing from this article, that is what it should be. From there, you have a strong foundation for offering support and letting your friend know you are there for them.
It may be very difficult at first to feel like you are qualified to help someone who is struggling with PPD. This stigma is what holds people back from reaching out to someone in need and letting them know they are thinking of them.
Simple things like this make a world of difference in a person’s life who is struggling with PPD. You don’t need to feel like you should reinvent the wheel or take a course on psychology to help out.
Just showing up, offering support through chores, making dinner, babysitting, or anything else can significantly help people’s struggles.
Good friends will do anything for each other, and having that mentality when reaching out to your struggling companion will create an everlasting and rewarding bond with each other.
If you think your friend would benefit from a program designed to create a compelling future filled with gratitude, love, and confidence for them and their family, please encourage them to take 30 minutes and schedule a connection call with me.
Even if they may not be the right fit for the program, I will do my best to push them in the right direction for where they are.
You are here for a reason as someone with a friend who has PPD, now go out and make the world a better place with your support!
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