For Family and Friends
If someone you care about is depressed, you may feel helpless. Maybe you're watching a once-active or happy person slide into inactivity or you're seeing a good friend lose interest in favorite activities. The change in your loved one's or friend's behavior may be so big that you feel you no longer know him or her.
Here are some things you can do to help:
Help with the basics
You can also help the person have good health habits. Encourage him or her to:
- Limit alcohol and not use drugs. Having a substance abuse problem makes treating depression harder. Both problems need to be treated.
- Be active. People who are fit usually have less anxiety, depression, and stress than people who aren't fit.6
- Deal with stress. Too much stress can help trigger depression, but simple things can relieve stress. For more information, see the topic Stress Management.
- Get enough sleep. Sleep can help mood and stress levels.
- Eat a balanced diet. This helps the body deal with tension and stress. Whole grains, dairy products, fruits, vegetables, and protein are part of a balanced diet.
Depression and suicide
Depression can lead to suicide. Call or the national suicide hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) or other emergency services if the person:
- Plans to harm himself or herself or others.
- Talks, writes, reads, or draws about death, including writing suicide notes and talking about items that can harm him or her, such as pills, guns, or knives.
- Buys guns or bullets, stockpiles medicines, or takes other action to prepare for a suicide attempt. The person may have a new interest in guns or other weapons.
- Hears or sees things that aren't real.
- Thinks or speaks in a bizarre way that is not usual.
Learn about depression and suicide and the warning signs of suicide, such as giving away things or suddenly using alcohol or drugs.
If a person or family member who is depressed talks about suicide and has a plan and a way to carry it out, follow these guidelines.
- Stay with the person, or ask someone you trust to stay with the person, until the crisis has passed.
- Get professional help.
- Don't argue with the person ("It's not as bad as you think") or challenge him or her ("You're not the type to commit suicide").
- Tell the person you don't want him or her to die. Talk about the situation as openly as possible.
If you are spending a lot of time helping or caring for someone who has depression, find your own support. This can help you deal with the illness. These caregiver tips also can help you:
- Don't help too much. A common mistake caregivers make is providing too much care. Even if they don't say so, people like to help themselves. Take some time off.
- Don't do it alone. Ask others to help you, or join a support group. The more support you have, the more help you can give.
- Get help from a local organization. Your city or state may have programs to help you. Ask at your local or state health department. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) provides contact information for support organizations nationwide. Go to www.nami.org and choose "Find Support."