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Depression: Asking Loved Ones for Help

WebMD explains how family and friends can help you deal with depression.

Depression: How Family and Loved Ones May Respond

When you tell a family member that you have depression, the person may not know how to react. Be prepared for a range of emotions, from confusion to anger to denial.

If the loved one says something along the lines of “it’s all in your head,” or “why don’t you just snap out of it,” (treatment can take weeks to kick in), Amador suggests that you say, “I’d be the first person to snap out of this if I could,” and “I’m going to be better soon, but please try to be patient.” Later, when you’re feeling better, you can provide more details or help to educate the loved one about major depression.

A loved one is likely to suggest various “home remedies” to help you, such as going out for a drink, or using “tough love,” Amador says. “It’s important to ask your loved ones not to pressure you.” Although it’s obvious that alcohol won’t help your depression and is, in fact, a depressant, “tough love rarely works with depression and can be damaging,” he says.  Still, it’s good to give a friend or loved one a sense of hope about the illness. “Tell them you are taking steps to get better,” he says. 

If your spouse or close friend wants you to go to a social event and you’re not up to it, ask him to watch a movie with you instead. “Having someone gently prod you to go for a walk, or to a lighthearted movie, can be beneficial,” Amador says. Exercise is a proven mood-booster. 

Be sure to ask the person who is giving support how he or she is doing. “When you give back to someone, you’re reminding yourself that you care about the other person, too, that you can be a giving person, even if you aren’t able to respond fully because of the depression,” Amador says.

Depression: How Family and Loved Ones Can Help

There are several practical steps a spouse, sibling, friend, or parent can take to help a loved one who is experiencing major depression:  

  • Make sure the person is taking his medication; offer to drive him to doctors’ or therapist appointments or to fill prescriptions. In Kristen's case, her parents were a conduit for information, talking to various doctors and therapists when she couldn’t.  
  • Provide feedback. Someone with major depression is probably in therapy or on medication (or both). By keeping an eye out for certain behaviors, you’ll help the person report back to his doctor. This is particularly helpful if the loved one has anxiety or isn’t sure if medication is working.
  • Provide financial help. Therapy and medications are expensive and may not be covered by insurance.
  • Be there, even if you’re not talking. When someone is feeling anxious or sad, knowing he or she is not alone is an immense help.
  • Educate yourself. There are many web sites, books, and articles that discuss depression. 

“Just knowing that someone else knows that you’re suffering can be a very good and safe feeling,” Davis says. “Everyone likes to know that someone is in their corner.”

Reviewed on July 07, 2009

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