Helping Depressed Loved Ones
*Don’t avoid someone who is depressed.
Because it’s “a bummer” to be around someone who is depressed, you might be tempted to avoid her. She might even want to be left alone, but isolation is not good, even when it’s self-imposed. Being alone only increases the feelings of hopelessness, so try to visit and/or call her frequently.
*Encourage discussion of feelings.
If your depressed friend is willing, encourage her to talk about her feelings. It might be something you’ve heard a hundred times, but she might need to say it another hundred times. Do your best to listen and try to be as understanding and supportive as possible.
*Do not judge!
One of the worst things you can say to a person who is depressed is, “I told you…” It can be very tempting sometimes, especially when it’s your child. However, it’s that dreaded, “I told you so,” that keeps so many people from talking out their problems and getting to a better place emotionally.
If there is a set of circumstances which is causing your loved one’s depression and you can think of something that might be helpful, offer suggestions. Offer to do something that might help the situation.
*Do not give false hope, but give real hope.
If your friend is depressed about a break-up or divorce, do not tell her, “Oh, he’ll come crawling back!” You don’t know if “he’ll come crawling back,” and you don’t want your friend to be waiting for something that isn’t going to happen. The old, “If it’s meant to be, it’ll be,” is good, but don’t forget to add, “But if it isn’t meant to be, there’s someone better out there for you!”
*Brighten up the place.
If you can, go to your friend’s home and take her some flowers or a balloon bouquet. Open the blinds in her house and help her straighten up a bit. People who are depressed often let their housework slide, so having someone to help out with the chores is always appreciated.
*Try to get her to laugh.
If at all possible, get her to watch something funny with you—a funny movie, or some silly thing you find on YouTube. Remind her of funny things you used to do together. Put on some upbeat music.
*Try to get her out of the house.
Talk her into going to see a happy movie, or better yet, go for a walk. If the weather is too extreme, go to a mall and walk around. Getting out of the house is good, but the exercise might be even better once those endorphins kick in. Maybe you can reward yourselves with one of those giant cookies after that long walk.
*Talk to her about getting help.
If your depressed friend is willing to talk about her depression, ask if there is a history of depression in her family. If so, she might not feel so uncomfortable about seeking help. If you or any of your loved ones have suffered from depression, let her know what was helpful to you (or them). Sometimes just knowing you aren’t alone makes you feel better. And knowing what to expect when going to a therapist the first time might help ease the anxiety of taking that first step. Maybe then you could give her some literature on depression. It’s worth a try.
*If you suspect that your friend might be a danger to herself or someone else, get help immediately.
You might be afraid that your friend will be angry with you if you call the authorities, but if you seriously believe that someone’s life could be in danger, it’s always better to err on the side of caution. After she gets help, she will probably thank you for saving her life, or for keeping her from doing something she would regret for the rest of her life.
Most of the time, things aren’t nearly as bad when you wake in the morning as they seem the night before. Sometimes, though, the light of day doesn’t bring any relief. In those cases, make sure not to leave a depressed person alone, and if necessary, get help. It’s not easy, but someone’s life could be in your hands. Do what you have to do--you can do it!
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