The most important thing anyone can do for the depressed person is to help him or her get an appropriate diagnosis and treatment for depression. This may involve encouraging the individual to stay with treatment until the symptoms of depression begin to abate (several weeks), or to seek different treatment if no improvement occurs. The very nature of depression can interfere with a person’s ability to get help. Depression saps energy and self-esteem and makes a person feel tired, worthless, helpless, and hopeless.
Offer emotional support. This 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 accuse the depressed person of faking illness or of laziness, or expect him or her “to snap out of it.”
Learn all you can about depression.
Learn all you can about the helping system for depression in your area.
Bond with your friend. (That is, in the depressed person/helper relationship)
Learn to communicate with the depressed person.
Encourage and help them to strengthen themselves physically, mentally and emotionally as much as possible given their depressed state.
Do provide the depressed person with practical help, as you are able. For example, you may provide them with babysitting; this can be especially helpful if they need to go to a therapy appointment or support group. If possible and appropriate, you may provide financial help.
Do model positive behaviors. One of the best ways to influence someone else to become more healthy, is to be more healthy yourself. Be a good role model for your depressed friend or family member by living a positive, growing, balanced life yourself.
When helping someone who is depressed, don’t expect the depressed person to overcome his or her depression all by himself or herself. When depressed a person can’t “pull himself or herself up by his or her boot straps.” The depression relates to chemical changes which have taken place in the brain. A person can’t just change his or her brain chemistry back to normal.
Depression and dual diagnosis affects the whole family. There are many ranges of emotions from anger and fear to hopefulness and hopelessness. Having others that have experienced it before can help eliminate unhealthy coping mechanisms such as isolation, shame, control and low self-esteem.
Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional: We are all going to feel pain in life never mind a home with mental illness. Surround yourselves with knowledge, self-care, experienced support and nurturing. There are no such things as victims … only volunteers.
Make a list of early symptoms such as sleep, appetite and mood changes. Early intervention is the key to stopping a downward spiral. Determine what worked in the past to get the person with clinical depression back on track and do the things that worked before.
Research shows that medication in combination with cognitive behavioral therapy is more effective than medication alone. Combined with therapy, the person who is clinically depressed may need to make lifestyle changes, including dietary and exercise changes. The family needs to find ways to reduce stressors by simplifying their lives.
Listening carefully can also make you more aware of signs of suicide which should not be ignored.