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Depression can transform a previously happy and vital friend or family member into someone you barely recognize. It’s painful to watch a loved one struggle with depression and we naturally want to help, but depression is not like a case of the blues and you can’t just “cheer him/her up”.

Thankfully, there are some things that we can do to assist a loved one going through a major depression

Get Educated

Depression is an invisible but painful illness. To offer meaningful assistance you need to understand the disorder, its symptoms and its solutions. Don’t do anything before you understand the disease.

Encourage Treatment

Depression is an enormously treatable disease that goes enormously undertreated.

Medication and psychotherapy will work for most people and can greatly reduce or even eliminate depressive symptoms. Problematically, people with depression often don’t realize that the way they feel is a treatable medical condition.

You can help by educating a loved one with depression about the symptoms of the disorder and the treatments that work to better these symptoms. Since people with depression sometimes lack decision making skills or motivation, you can also help by offering to schedule appointments and by offering your company and support for initial treatment sessions.

Encourage Treatment Compliance

It can take a while for medication and psychotherapy to work; some anti depressants can take up to 6 weeks before becoming completely effective, but no medication or treatment can work unless a patient complies with the treatment.

Sometimes people with depression need a little encouragement, especially in the early stages of treatment, to stick with it. Positive treatment compliance encouragement can make a difference.

Try to Limit the Frustrations They Experience

You can’t live their life for them, but you can try to reduce the stresses and frustrations they must face. Anything you can do around the house or on the job to reduce stress levels can have a beneficial effect on symptoms severity.

Be a Good Listener

Sometimes there is nothing you can say that is as useful as being there to listen. Be there for someone with depression when they want to talk about the way they’re feeling. Know that you don’t have to have any answers, that listening alone is help enough.

Remember That Depression Is a Real Illness

It’s easy to get frustrated with people experiencing depression, frustrated with the way they act and their inability to respond to your offers for assistance. The way people with depression may interact with us can at times provoke an irritated or angry response.

“I’m so sick of your moping and complaining…Snap out of it!”

Make an effort to remember consciously that depression is a real disease that causes physical changes in the brain and that these behaviors that can be so frustrating (infuriating, at times) are simply behavioral manifestations of physiological activity in the mind, far beyond the control of the depressed person.

You will need to be patient.

Suggest and Organize Outings and Activities

Depressed people don’t feel a lot of motivation to engage in social interaction, but increasing social isolation can actually worsen depression. Make an effort to suggest easy, non stressful but fun outings. You’ll likely have to do all the planning and organizing, and don’t get discouraged if often your suggested outings aren’t met with enthusiasm. Just keep trying.

Take Care of Yourself

Spending a lot of time with a person suffering from clinical depression can be very draining. Avoid getting overwhelmed. Without taking time out to look after yourself and to enjoy your own life, you risk getting stressed and irritable with the depressed person, only worsening the situation.

You can’t solve depression on your own and although you can offer worthy support, you can’t make someone with depression “feel better” through your determined cheerfulness. Make sure to keep perspective on your actions and give yourself enough time each day to recharge the batteries.

Be real but be positive. Don’t put on an act, but do realize that harsh words or criticisms can sting painfully to a person already weakened by depression. Positive encouragement and honest praise can help to restore a little self confidence and self esteem.

Learn about Suicide

Learn the warning signs of suicide and be ready to intervene should you see anything worrisome.

If you can help a depressed person initiate treatment, help them to comply with treatment, and offer patient support during the lengthy treatment process, you can help a lot.

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Page last updated Aug 05, 2010

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