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How to Help Someone with Depression

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Authored by Douglas Mefford in Mental Health
Published on 10-27-2009

When depression strikes a person it is not just that one individual who is affected by the debilitating stresses caused by this disorder. Everyone around that person is effected and the tasks of helping someone deal with depression can be difficult. It can be hard to recognize the symptoms of depression but through paying attention to those around you, you can better see if someone has let the stresses of life bring them down.

Getting the person to realize that depression is affecting them can be hard. You should first study the condition to know how to present your offers for help in such a way as to not increase the affected person’s feelings of worthlessness and apathy. A light touch is needed for this. Do not take an aggressive approach or act as though the depressed person can “just get over it.” The person may not even realize they are depressed. Compassion and understanding are required if you are to do any good in helping someone with depression.

Giving emotional support of the depressed person is critical. Be sure to let them know that you are there for them when they feel helpless or overwhelmed. Even if the affected person is still in denial about their condition, checking up on them and showing concern for their wellbeing can provide some support.

Helping someone with depression also requires a good deal of physical support as well. Some of the most obvious signs of depression include a ceasing of most physical activities. The affected person will often just want to stay in bed and sleep. Giving up activities that they formerly found enjoyable can also indicate a fall into depression. Offer to go with them or help them out with chores. Take the time to talk with them or go out for a movie or a meal. Since depression brings with it a feeling of isolation, be ready to be a gentle presence that is there for companionship and support.

Depression often causes the affected person to say or do seemingly irrational acts or act angrily or irritably towards people who are only there to help. It is to this behavior the greatest amounts of patience and compassion should be directed. Remember that it is the depression causing it rather than believe the affected person is mad at you. Trying to convince the affected person their feelings are wrong and trying to argue them into changing will only make things worse. This can put them on the defensive and makes them less likely to be accepting of your help. Do not take talk or threats of suicide lightly. Rarely will the depressed person make these statements just to get attention. Usually such statements are really desperate pleas for help.

Remember that coming out of depression can be a long and agonizing process. Do not allow frustration to make you lash out at the affected person. At worse you may need to back off a bit sometimes. Make sure someone else is helping you help the affected person. Take care of yourself both physically and emotionally so that you do not fall into a state of “contagious depression” yourself. Stay in touch and stay close to someone you are trying to help come out of a state of depression. Even a phone call can help let them know you are concerned and thinking about them.

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