Don't ask your loved one to snap out of it. Depression is a real
illness. People who are depressed can't just "pull themselves together" and
feel better. Recovering from depression takes time and treatment. Think about
it: You wouldn't ask someone with cancer to snap out of it. Depression is just
as real and just as serious an illness.
Listen. Right now, what your loved one with depression may need most
is someone to listen. Don't dismiss his or her concerns. Don't assume that you
know what he or she is going through. Just listen.
Encourage your depressed loved one to be more active. Most people
who are depressed isolate themselves. Isolation can make things worse. So
gently encourage your friend with depression to get out more. Suggest that you
do things together. Invite your loved one out to dinner or to a walk around the
Don't push too hard. Be encouraging but not forceful. Don't make
demands. People who are depressed feel overwhelmed as it is. If you're always
pushing, a person with depression may pull back more. So if your friend or
loved one declines your invitations, don't force the issue. Instead, just give
it a little time and then ask again. Be persistent but gentle.
Encourage your loved one to stick with treatment. It's key that your
loved one with depression stay on his or her medication and get regular
checkups. He or she may also need encouragement to eat well, get enough sleep,
and stay away from alcohol and drugs. You could also offer to go with your
loved one to therapy or health care appointments.
Create a stable environment. Reducing stress around the home can
help a person with depression. Try to get your loved one on a schedule, so he
or she knows what to expect each day.
Emphasize that your loved one will feel better. Because of
depression, your loved one may feel hopeless. Be reassuring. Depression
distorts a person's perception of the world. But with time and treatment, your
friend or loved one will see clearly again.
SOURCES: Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance: "Helping a Friend or
Family Member With Depression or Bipolar Disorder," 2004. Depression and
Bipolar Support Alliance: "Finding Peace of Mind: Treatment Strategies for
Depression and Bipolar Disorder." American Psychiatric Association: "Practice
Guideline for the Treatment of Patients With Major Depression," 2000.
Fochtmann, L. and Gelenberg, A. Guideline Watch: Practice Guideline for the
Treatment of Patients with Major Depressive Disorder, 2nd Edition. Focus,
Winter 2005: vol 3: pp 34-42. Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance:
"Psychotherapy: How It Works and How It Can Help." Depression and Bipolar
Support Alliance: "You've Just Been Diagnosed ... What Now?"
Joseph Goldberg, MD on September 06, 2011