What Family and Friends Can Do to Help Someone Who is Depressed:
- View depression as an illness. It is as real and as painful as heart
disease or pneumonia. It is also as treatable.
- Spend time with the person if he needs it or wants it.
- Avoid talking only about depression and its symptoms.
- Talk about other people, the weather, sports, or the news. If the
depressed person wants to talk about his depression, allow him to.
- If you see his views as unrealistically depressed, tell him you disagree
with his viewpoint.
- If the discussion becomes too difficult or persists for too long,
change the subject.
- Ask the depressed person to help with chores that are within his abilities
and that will allow him to contribute.
- Join the depressed person in simple exercise--walking, for example.
- Allow the depressed person to be alone if he wishes. Only if you believe
he is suicidal should you insist that he not be alone.
- If you feel the depressed person is suicidal, or if he states that
he is, ask about it in detail, inquiring about his feelings, his plans,
his access to a means for suicide. If you feel there is a risk, contact
his therapist and stay with him.
- Don't respond to irritability with bad temper or arguments. Irritability
is part of depression and responds better to a brief withdrawal on your
- Don't expect the depressed person to do too much. Depression is a
real and a severe illness. People who are suffering from it cannot be
expected to do as much as they can when they're well.
- Continue with your own life. You'll be in much better shape to help
if you stay physically and mentally healthy. Make sure you have time
to get away and do things you enjoy.
- Talk to others who can help you cope--friends, family, clergy, a therapist.
Just as depressed people need to talk about feelings, families need
to talk about the problems of living with someone who is depressed.
- Many people find comfort in self-help groups that consist of friends
and family members of depressed persons who meet to support and educate
Most communities have a local chapter of the National
Depressive and Manic-Depressive Illness support group.
To find out what's available in your community, call your local Mental
Health Association or local self-help clearinghouse. Or call the National
Self-Help Clearinghouse at 1-212-354-8525.
Don't be surprised or discouraged if there are some setbacks. There'll
be good days and bad days in the recovery from depression just as there
are in recovery from any other serious illness.
For information or referral, call 1-888-694-5700
Copyright © 1996 by New York-Presbyterian Hospital
Behavioral Health Nursing Service Line
last revised 2/99