Silent Epidemic

Dealing with Depression
Living with a Depressed Person
What to Do
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Getting Help
Living With a Depressed Person
courtesy of North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service, NC State University, Raleigh, NC

Depressed people need more than the usual amount of understanding from friends and family, but they can be very unpleasant.

The anger and lack of concern that a depressed person shows can be very disturbing to someone trying to help. A depressed person may feel unworthy of someone's friendship and question a friend or relative's sincerity. Withdrawal can make it difficult to encourage a depressed person to engage in activities that may chase away his or her blues.

It is often difficult for a depressed person to carry on a conversation. Questioning him or her about the condition may prompt shrugs simply because the person really does not know what is wrong. Though it can drain the encouragers, reassurance is important.

While being supportive and understanding, friends or family members must be careful not to do too much for the depressed person. A very thin line separates being supportive and being overprotective. Doing too much for someone who "just can't seem to get things done" can cause dependency--and guilt over being indebted to someone else.

You can help a depressed friend or relative by considering these points:

Do not moralize. Do not pressure him or her to "Put on a happy face" or to "Snap out of it." Often the person will feel even worse after hearing such statements.

Be available. When you are alone with your depressed friend, you might say something like, "I've noticed lately that you're down. I care about you and would like to listen to what you're thinking about." Then be a good listener.

Do not say, "I know exactly how you feel." You probably do not. But if you have had similar experiences, sharing those may help. Say things like, "This happened to me. It might help you." Or "I know some of what you must be feeling." Urge him or her to get professional help if necessary. Offer to accompany your friend to the first visit since that may make the trip easier.

Watch for warning signs of suicidal feelings. Sometimes people who are thinking about killing themselves give away cherished belongings or preface comments with "After I'm gone...". If you think suicide is an immediate possibility, do not leave your friend. Contact a mental health professional as quickly as you can. (See Resources for hotlines and organizations to contact.)

Depression Is Common

Everybody has a "bum day" now and then, but if you or someone you love feels down day after day, depression could be the cause. There is a way to get better. Learn the symptoms of depression and how it affects a person, then act for a positive future.

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