Most of us recognize the importance of knowing CPR. If we are trained to perform it, and someone around us has a heart attack, we are equipped with the knowledge to potentially save that person’s life. This same philosophy applies with depression - by understanding the signs and what to do, you can save a life, too!
Sometimes outsiders can notice changes in people before they may even recognize changes in themselves. So, it is important to know how to handle a situation if you think someone you know may be struggling with depression.
The best approach is to communicate 1) the changes you have noticed, 2) that you care and 3) ask how you can help them take action towards seeking help, or in the case of a teen helping another teen, help them talk to a trusted adult.
Read this example exchange to better understand what this kind of conversation may sound like between teen friends. Keep in mind that each situation is different and may require a slightly different approach and different action steps.
If when having this conversation you are worried that this person is thinking of suicide or hurting themselves, action must be taken immediately. If you are a teen, an adult must be notified - preferably your friend's parent(s). A friend may ask you to keep this information a secret, but when it comes to matters of safety, keeping a secret can cost a life. If you are an adult, notify the teen's parents and make sure not to leave them alone until they are in their parents care. If you are a parent, take your child to the nearest hospital for an evaluation. Go to our crisis page for more information about what to do if you believe someone you love is thinking of self harm.
One word of caution. It is important to take care of yourself and understand there are limits to the kind of support you can provide to someone with depression. Often, a person can take on too much responsibility for helping a loved one with depression and this can begin to cause you stress. Remember, it's your job is to listen, show compassion and help a someone with depression find professional help.
If you are in need of support for yourself, check out a NAMI near you for support groups.
If the person you love is in treatment there is still a lot you can do to support them. Start by:
For more information on depression, check out our Parent Handbook on Childhood and Adolescent Depression. Also, don't forget to take a look at the rest of the Teen Depression Toolbox - take the teen depression test or to access more information on depression, coping and treatment.
In crisis? Go to our crisis page for more information on how to help yourself or someone else who needs immediate assistance.