Dealing With Depression

How Family and Friends Can Help Deal With Depression

Dealing with depression should not be done alone. Friends and family can be an integral part of successful depression treatment.
The most important thing anyone can do for a depressed person is to help him or her get an appropriate diagnosis and treatment. This may involve encouraging the individual to stay with treatment until the symptoms of depression begin to go away (this can take several weeks) or to seek different treatment if no improvement occurs. On occasion, this may require making an appointment and accompanying the depressed person to the doctor. It may also mean monitoring whether or not the depressed person is taking his or her medication. The depressed person should be encouraged to obey the doctor's orders about the limitation (or restriction) of alcoholic products while on medication.
The second-most important thing is to give emotional support. This involves offering understanding, patience, affection, and encouragement. Engage the depressed person in conversation, and listen carefully. Do not disparage the feelings he or she may express, but point out realities and offer hope. Do not ignore remarks about suicide -- report them to the depressed person's therapist. Invite the depressed person for walks, on outings, to the movies, and to other activities. Be gently insistent if your invitation is refused. Encourage his or her participation in some activities that were once pleasurable, such as:
  • Hobbies
  • Sports
  • Religious or cultural activities.
However, 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 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.
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