Helping a Depressed Loved One

Helping a loved one deal with depression can be the key to their recovery. It isn't always going to be easy. But there are some things that can help:

Learn the facts. The first thing to do is discover as much as you can about depression. Read up on the causes and treatments and what you can do to help.

Get other people involved. You can't do this alone. Your friend or loved one may want you to keep their depression a secret. That isn't healthy. It puts far too much pressure on you. Try to get a small circle of family and friends to pitch in. That way, you can help look after your loved one together.

Ask what they need. Be direct. Unless you ask, you won't know what your friend or loved one wants from you.

Don't try to solve the problem. To get better, your person needs professional help from a doctor or therapist. Depression is a medical illness. You wouldn't try to cure a friend's diabetes on your own. You shouldn't try curing depression, either.

Offer to help with the practical things. If you have depression, it's easy to feel overwhelmed. Everyday stuff -- dressing the kids for school, grocery shopping, or laundry -- can feel like too much. Pitch in. Sometimes, a little help with the day-to-day things can make a big difference.

Take time for yourself. Taking care of someone with depression can be a lot to take on. It's important that you set aside time for yourself. Do things you enjoy. Get out of the house every now and then. Take walks, or go to the gym. Hang out with friends.

You may feel guilty for thinking about yourself. But if you don't, you'll burn out -- and that won't help either of you.

Know your limits. You can't do everything. You won't make your loved one well alone. You can't watch them 24 hours a day. Some things aren't in your power. In the end, your loved one has to want to get better, too.

Take threats seriously. Suicide is a very real risk of depression. If your friend or loved one is threatening to commit suicide:

  • Don't leave the person alone.
  • Remove any weapons or large amounts of medication.
  • Call a suicide hotline or their therapist.

In a crisis, don't hesitate to call the doctor or 911. You can't keep something this serious a secret.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Smitha Bhandari, MD on September 05, 2019

Sources

SOURCES: 
Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance: "Helping a Friend or Family Member With Depression or Bipolar Disorder," "Finding Peace of Mind: Treatment Strategies for Depression and Bipolar Disorder," "Psychotherapy: How It Works and How It Can Help," "You've Just Been Diagnosed ... What Now?"

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