Helping a Depressed Friend or Family Member
The most important thing anyone can do for the depressed person is to help him or her get appropriate diagnosis and treatment. This may involve encouraging the individual to stay with treatment until symptoms begin to abate (several weeks), or to seek different treatment if no improvement occurs. On occasion, it may require making an appointment and accompanying the depressed person to the doctor. It may also mean monitoring whether the depressed person is taking medication.
The second most important thing is to offer emotional support. This involves understanding, patience, affection, and encouragement. Engage the depressed person in conversation and listen carefully. Do not ignore remarks about suicide. Always report them to the doctor.
Invite the depressed person for walks, outings to the movies, and other activities. Be gently insistent if your invitation is refused. Encourage participation in some activities that once gave pleasure, such as hobbies, sports, religious or cultural activities, but do not push the depressed person to undertake too much too soon. The depressed person needs diversion and company, but too many demands can increase feelings of failure.
Do not accuse the depressed person of faking illness or of laziness, or expect him or her "to snap out of it." Eventually, with treatment, most depressed people do get better. Keep that in mind, and keep reassuring the depressed person that with time and help he or she will feel better.
Sometimes a friend's depression can be frightening and extreme. For thoughts on what to do if you suspect a friend is suicidal, read What if Someone You Care About is Suicidal.
RECOMMENDED READING FROM THE PSYSTORE:
What to Do When Someone You Love Is Depressed
by Mitch Golant, Susan K. Golant
Our Price: $11.20
"This book is directed toward the caregiver or "strengthened ally" of any of the more than 17 million Americans who suffer from this common but often misunderstood affliction. Woven throughout are the personal experiences of Mitch Golant, who spent most of his childhood with a mother who was seriously depressed, an experience that not only catapulted him into his work as a clinical psychologist, but also informs this book with a tone of compassionate understanding." -- Book Description
For a selection of books on this topic, visit the Psystore.