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 for immediate help.  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 988.

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


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