Help Someone with Depression

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 to depression – by understanding the signs of depression and what to do, you can save a life, too!

Say something

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.

What if they’re talking about suicide?

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.

Take care of yourself, too

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.

Support during treatment

If the person you love is in treatment there is still a lot you can do to support them. Start by:

  • Supporting their treatment. You can make someone’s experience in treatment less daunting and more comfortable if you can help them see that what they are doing is the right choice.
  • Check-in. It is not your job to provide therapy, but you can make sure that the help they are receiving is on the right track by checking in on how they are feeling and coping.
  • Encourage them to do the things they used to love. Depression makes you want to pull back from the people and things you love in life. Having someone to help you to socialize or get back into the activities that used to bring happiness can help someone get back on the road to feeling like their old selves again.
  • Validate how they feel. Depression doesn’t always make sense to those of us watching a loved one from the outside. However, even though they have a seemingly normal life, their feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness and sadness are very real. Validate those feelings by saying how hard that must be to feel that way and challenge them to see the good. Always remind a person with depression that feelings are like waves – they can knock us off our feet for a bit, but they will recede eventually.
  • Advocate for healthy choices. Making healthy choices about what we eat, drink, how much sleep we get and exercise we engage in can make a big difference in the way we feel. Help the person in your life make these healthy choices. Check out the coping section for ideas around making healthy choices.

For more information

For more information on depression, check out our Parent Handbook on Childhood and Teen Depression. Also, don’t forget to take a look at the rest of the Teen Toolbox – access more information on depression, prevention, thriving and treatment.

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