How to Help Someone Who has Depression

How to Help Someone Who has Depression
Currently the United States is experiencing an opioid epidemic, further suicide has skyrocketed to the 10th leading cause of death. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. (43.8 million) experiences mental illness in a given year. 9.8 million, or 4.0%, experience symptoms that substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities.

The National Institute of Mental Health says major depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the U.S. .An estimated 16.2 million adults in the United States had at least one major depressive episode in 2016. This number represents 6.7% of all U.S. adults.

Public Service Announcements and social media posts urge people who are suffering to ask for help, however I’ve run across plenty of articles that say real help is difficult to find. Friends and family mean well but many times have no idea what to say to someone who is depressed.

When Someone You Know Has Depression: Words to Say and Things to Do
by Susan J. Noonan, Timothy J. Petersen, Jonathan E. Alpert and Andrew A. Nierenberg fills a needed void. The book offers guidance for those who want to learn skills to help, support and encourage a family member, friend or loved one who is suffering.

Below are a few helpful suggestions from the book:

Show your support. Talking about depression doesn’t make it worse. Regularly set aside a time and place for your loved one to check in on how they are doing. Listen, be positive, discuss treatment decisions, if asked, but don’t give advice. Keep your conversations confidential unless the individual is a threat to themselves or someone else.

Ask questions. While conversing with your family member or loved one ask questions. Questions show that you are interested and helps to clarify facts. If there is something the individual chooses not to share, respect their privacy.

Treat your loved one normally. People who are depressed sometimes isolate themselves, so include the family member in usual everyday activities. Let them know that they are expected to participate in both fun activities as well as daily chores, school work and other responsibilities. Also set limits. Being depressed does not give anyone the right to treat others with disrespect.

Handling suicidal thoughts. If a family member mentions thoughts of suicide or self harm, don’t say “How could you possibly think that way?” Instead directly and gently ask them details about their suicidal or self harming thoughts and if they’ve made specific plans to carry them out. “If your family member shows any indication of suicide intent or a plan, your first step is to call for professional help immediately by dialing 9-1-1 or her mental health provider,” cautions the authors. Keep in mind that inquiring about suicidal thoughts and urging the family member to get help does not increase risk of suicide.

The book educates readers on the various types of mental health professionals and outpatient treatment options like cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT. If your friend or family member cannot be helped via outpatient services and must be treated in the inpatient psychiatry unit of a hospital, the book walks you through this process as well.

While the book is specifically focused on interacting with individuals who have depression, anyone can use these skills to relate to others with more understanding, empathy and respect.

I borrowed When Someone You Know Has Depression: Words to Say and Things to Do
From the local library.

Related Articles
Editor's Picks Articles
Top Ten Articles
Previous Features
Site Map

Content copyright © 2023 by Leah Mullen. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Leah Mullen. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Leah Mullen for details.