Facts for Family and Friends
Perhaps the most important thing family and friends can do is to encourage the
depressed person to get appropriate diagnosis and treatment. The very nature of depression--the
feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and worthlessness--can keep the depressed person from
seeking help. When symptoms linger beyond a reasonable time, or if there seems no apparent reason
for the individual's persistent feelings of unhappiness and gloom, the observant and caring friend
or relative should help the depressed person get professional assistance.
Family and friends can also provide much needed support, love, and encouragement. Depression destroys self-esteem and confidence, and family and friends can help the depressed person feel worthwhile by applying the following "Dos" and "Don'ts"
- maintain as normal a relationship as possible.
- point out distorted negative thinking without being critical or disapproving.
- acknowledge that the person is suffering and in pain.
- offer kind words and pay compliments.
- express affection.
- show that you care, respect, and value the depressed person.
- blame the depressed person for his or her condition.
- criticize, pick on, "put down" or voice disapproval until the depressed person is feeling better.
- say or do anything to exacerbate his or her poor self-image.
In addition, friends and family can help by keeping the depressed person busy and active.
Depression tends to feed on itself, and a moderately depressed person becomes apathetic and inactive leading
to more depression, more withdrawal, and more inactivity, resulting in a vicious cycle. Gentle assertiveness
may be required to stand by the depressed person, particularly if the individual is withdrawn and rejecting.
Depression typically involves strong feelings of guilt, and it is important that family and friends do not
compound such feelings by blaming the individual for his or her symptoms. Depressed people often arouse anger
in others, and it is tempting to become impatient, to tell the depressed person to snap out of it, or to indicate
that depression is a sign of weakness. The depressed person is in pain and needs understanding and help.
Also, the possibility of suicide must always be considered in cases of depression. Though a depression may appear relatively mild, it does not exclude the possibility of suicide. Sometimes seemingly mild depression has much deeper roots. Nor is it true, as many people believe, that a person who talks about suicide will not attempt it. Those who attempt suicide often appeal first for help by threatening to do so.
Even when there appears little or no danger of suicide, a mental health professional should be consulted when a serious depressive disorder is suspected. The earlier the depressed person receives help, the sooner the symptoms are alleviated and the speedier the recovery.
Depression is the most treatable of all the mental illnesses. Individuals no longer have to suffer its debilitating symptoms. With modern treatment methods, they can return to full and productive lives.
Best Things To Say to Someone Who is Depressed
Worst Things To Say to Someone Who is Depressed
The possibility of suicide is the most serious complication of depressive illnesses. Feelings
of worthlessness and guilt, combined with a special kind of psychic pain, may overwhelm the individual so that
he or she feels unable to go on or unfit to live. Sometimes these feelings remain just thoughts, and at other
times they lead to suicidal attempts.
Not all those suffering from depressive illnesses attempt suicide, nor are all those who attempt suicide suffering from a depressive illness. It is estimated that 15 percent of untreated or inadequately treated depressives may eventually commit suicide and, among suicide victims, more than half are suffering from a depressive illness. The person hospitalized for depression at some time in his or her life is about 30 times more likely to commit suicide than is the nondepressed person, with the greatest risk during or immediately following hospitalization. A family history of suicide is an additional risk factor.
The possibility of suicide increases with advancing age. In recent years, however, there have been alarming increases in suicide among young adults. Approximately twice as many women attempt suicide; however, men are more likely than women to actually kill themselves.