Depression (cont.)

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How can someone help a person who is depressed?

Family and friends can help! Since depression can make the affected person feel exhausted and helpless, he or she will want and probably need help from others. However, people who have never had a depressive disorder may not fully understand its effects. Although unintentional, friends and loved ones may unknowingly say and do things that may be hurtful to the depressed person. It may help to share the information in this article with those you most care about so they can better understand and help you.

The most important thing anyone can do for the depressed person is to help him or her get an appropriate diagnosis and treatment. This help may involve encouraging the individual to stay with treatment until symptoms begin to go away (usually several weeks) or to seek different treatment if no improvement occurs. On occasion, it may require making an appointment and accompanying the depressed person to the doctor. It may also mean monitoring whether the depressed person is taking medication for several months after symptoms have improved. Always report a worsening depression to the patient's physician or therapist.

The second most important way to help is to offer emotional support. This support involves understanding, patience, affection, and encouragement. Engage the depressed person in conversation and listen carefully. Do not disparage feelings expressed, but point out realities and offer hope. Do not ignore remarks about suicide. Always report them to the depressed person's therapist.

Invite the depressed person for walks, outings, and to the movies and other activities. Be gently insistent if your invitation is refused. Encourage participation in activities that once gave pleasure, such as hobbies, sports, or religious or cultural activities. However, do not push the depressed person to undertake too much too soon. The depressed person needs company and diversion, but too many demands can increase feelings of failure.

Do not accuse the depressed person of faking illness or of laziness. Do not expect him or her "to snap out of it." Eventually, with treatment, most depressed people do get better. Keep that in mind. Moreover, keep reassuring the depressed person that, with time and help, he or she will feel better.


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