When a Loved One Has Depression

Last Editorial Review: 5/14/2012

Coping with depression is difficult for the person who is depressed as well as their family and friends.

Role of Caregiver

The support and involvement of family and friends can be crucial in helping someone who is depressed. It is especially helpful if family and friends encourage the patient to stick with treatment and practice the coping techniques and problem-solving skills he or she is learning during psychotherapy.

How Can I Help?

  • Make sure that your loved one is evaluated and treated by a trained mental health professional. This is essential to properly diagnose depression and find the right kind of treatment.
  • Educate yourself, your family, and friends about mental health problems and depression in particular. This will help you understand what your loved one is experiencing.
  • Someone with depression needs constant support. This can be draining, especially if it lasts for long periods of time. It is, however, one of the most important parts of successful treatment. People with depression can feel alone and isolated -- giving consistent support and understanding are critical.
  • Help the person with depression to stick to his or her treatment plan. This means making sure that medicines are available if prescribed, attending therapy sessions with the person if needed, helping make recommended lifestyle changes, and encouraging the person to follow up with the proper health care provider, especially if the treatment needs to be adjusted.

Tips for the Caregiver

Living with a person who has depression can be very difficult and stressful on family members and friends. Here are some suggestions for living with a person who has depression that may make things easier for you and more beneficial for the depressed person:

  • Recognize that depression is often expressed as hostility, rejection, and irritability.
  • Adopt an interaction style that puts the depressed person in charge. For example, instead of suggesting, "Let's go to the movies tonight," try this: "I'd like to see a movie tonight. Which one of these do you want to see with me?"
  • Encourage the depressed person to seek professional help. Accompany and support your loved one, but make it clear that it is his or her responsibility to get better.
  • Remember that treatment is very effective and your loved one will improve with treatment within a few months.
  • Support opportunities for the depressed person to be rewarded, such as visiting friends or going out for activities. Don't force these, though.
  • Make sure you notice and praise any significant improvement. Be genuine.
  • Leave time for yourself and your own needs. Take breaks from the depressed person from time to time. It will help both of you.
  • Consider family or marital therapy: these forms of therapy may be beneficial in bringing together all those affected by depression and helping them learn effective ways to cope together.
  • Consider turning to support groups, either for the depressed person, or for you as his or her family member.

WebMD Medical Reference

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Reviewed by Joseph Goldberg, MD on May 14, 2012

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