Depression:  How to Support a Family Member or Friend

You could save a life

By Pamela Feldman, MS, LIMHP, LPC

What can you do when someone you know suffers from depression?  You may notice the changes such as lack of motivation or enthusiasm, irritability, withdrawal or pervasive sadness.  Someone who is depressed already knows they’re down, but they may not be aware that others notice or care. Depression often makes a person feel unwanted and unloved, even though that is not the case. So, it is helpful to talk to them about your concerns in a caring way. For example, “I’ve noticed you haven’t wanted to participate much lately which is a change for you.  I’d sure like to help if you’re having a hard time.”

Reassure your person that you just want to listen and be there for them. Despite your good intentions, offering suggestions can be shaming. No one accepts depression without trying to get better. People who suffer from depression can do all the right things without relief.  Being able to talk about depression without judgment is powerfully helpful.

Treatment consisting of counseling and medication is generally the most effective means of alleviating serious, clinical depression. Other medical conditions may be a factor, so the person’s doctor should be involved.   Do offer to help the person find resources or to stay in treatment.  It takes time and patience. Offer to check in with them periodically to just listen and give support. It’s okay to just be there without talking.

It is important to ask directly if they have thoughts of hurting themselves or taking their life. If they do, it’s important to seek immediate help at the nearest Emergency Room or you can call 911.  Let them know that you do not want anything bad to happen to them and that you will stay with them until they are safe.  Check to see if their home environment is safe from firearms and medications.  Make sure they have the 24-hour suicide hotline number at 1-800-273-8255(TALK).

Doing these things can be intimidating. But it may save a life.



Angst Over Food

It's not about the food!
It’s not about the food!

With the holidays fast approaching, there’s always angst over food. Whether you suffer a food allergy, an eating disorder, obesity, or are just trying to stay reasonably healthy, this is a difficult time of year. Lunch rooms get crowded with baked goods, every event seems to be focused on food, and families plan and prepare for feasts that result in food comas that sometimes end up in napping rather than enjoying one another’s company.


To be honest, we all probably have a few favorite foods that only come out at holiday time and there’s nothing wrong with enjoying that fully. But maybe it’s time to take into account that there are lots of other ways to celebrate and new traditions that engage more than our taste buds. If you are interested in considering making some changes, I’d like to offer a few ideas with the recognition that there may be some resistance and change happens gradually for most of us.

First of all, the holiday itself need not be the central part of the celebration. In many large and busy families, there are just too many places to go on one day. Consider enjoying an activity other than a meal. Locally, there are numerous free or low cost events that allow families to enjoy music, lights, and spiritual aspects of the season. familyConsult the local newspaper and magazines that are full of ideas such as the lighting downtown starting on Thanksgiving evening, and concerts at the museums, churches and other venues. A walk at the Lauritzen Gardens or a nearby lake or park is a way to bring the family together for some exercise. Game nights, making crafts and setting up friendly competitions can become something everyone remembers fondly. Building gingerbread houses, having snowball fights, or caroling can be ways to get at least some of the family involved in a new tradition. Volunteering around the holidays is a special way to generate comradery. Donating to charity by weeding out toys and coats and unused items is another family project that sets the holidays in motion. Just looking at Christmas lights is a fun way to spend an evening.

Keep It Simple

In our family, we try to keep it simple. After years of excessive, exhausting, albeit elaborate Holiday dinners, we now opt for a more people-focused approach. For example, Christmas eve will be at one home with a light meal and gift exchange. Christmas morning will be an egg casserole and sweet rolls at another home to enjoy the children and their Santa presents. We’ll end up at my house after a family traipse through the nearby trails, have soups and sandwiches, play games and tell stories and piece together a jigsaw puzzle. No one need be stressed out or bloated or secretly upset about over indulging. Don’t get me wrong, there will be candy and baked goods. But this year, we decided to forego the heavy meal on top of all that.

A final thought . . .

whatever your holiday includes, pay attention to what you really want to set your focus on. Who needs you to listen? When did you last read a book to a child? Is there an elderly person who would appreciate your attention? Have you connected with your spouse, your children, parents? How does nature, movement or music play a role in your holiday plans? The options are endless. Just let your imagination go.

Like I said, your family may have some awesome, creative holiday traditions. Share!



Enjoy the Day

This is the time that you have–this very moment.  Breathe, relax, and notice the many gifts that surround you right now.  There is beauty all around.  Let’s begin a brief meditation to enhance relaxation and a feeling of well-being.

The Relaxation Posture

Sit in a comfortable position with your legs uncrossed and your hands resting palms up on your lap. Take a moment to notice your spine.  Is it straight? Let your head rest against the back of your chair if you can.  Drop your shoulders. Breathing Now let your belly expand as you inhale.  Fill you lungs.  Hold for a few counts.  Exhale fully.  Push out a little more at the end.  Repeat four or five deep breaths.  Then let your breathing become more natural, but continue to involve your belly.  This gives your internal organs room as your lungs expand.


Consider the gift of this very moment.  You have this time for yourself. . . to focus on resting your mind, relaxing your body, being in this moment.  Slow your thoughts.  Only notice, without judging.Imagine that all tension begins to drain from the top of your head, down the back of your head and now your face.  Notice that the muscles in your face relax.  Your eyes soften.  Allow yourself to retain a slight smile as you continue to let all the tension and stress drain and move downward from your shoulders, your chest and your back.  Your arms now relax and become heavy.  Continue to breath in relaxation and exhale all tension and stress. Drain away all the remaining tension from your torso, hips and legs.  Give yourself several breaths to release any discomfort or stress from every cell in your body.   Allow deep sensations of relaxation to fill you and to flow through your entire body.

Positive Affirmations

Know that you are important in this world.   You deserve to feel at peace and to care for yourself.  You are capable of love and kindness. There is goodness within you. Awakening Now gently begin to move your hands and legs.  Stretch a bit to bring your awareness back to the room.  Notice that you are now calmer and feeling refreshed.  Be mindful of your own ability to care for yourself.


Did you try the meditation? Please share your observations, in the comment section below.