Teen Depression

Depression among teens is a serious issue. Most teens will not be able to cope with depression alone and they confide in friends instead of family members. As a teen who suffers from teen deprssion, I’m going to share some tips that I have taken from http://www.helpguide.org/mental/depression_teen_teenagers.htm to help those teens out there who are suffering from depression to cope with it. I hope this article helps.

Teen Depression: A Guide for Teenagers

Learn Tips and Tools for Helping Yourself or a Friend

Teen Depression

The teenage years can be tough, and it’s perfectly normal to feel sad or irritable every now and then. But if these feelings don’t go away or become so intense that you can’t handle them, you may be suffering from depression. The good news is that you don’t have to feel this way. Help is available and you have more power than you think. There are many things you can do to help yourself or a friend start feeling better.

What depression feels like

When you’re depressed, it can feel like no one understands. But depression is far more common in teens than you may think. You are not alone and your depression is not a hopeless case. Even though it can feel like depression will never lift, it eventually will—and with proper treatment and healthy choices, that day can come even sooner.

Signs and symptoms of teen depression

It’s hard to put into words how depression feels, and people experience it differently. There are, however, some common problems and symptoms that teens with depression experience.

  • You constantly feel irritable, sad, or angry.
  • Nothing seems fun anymore, and you just don’t see the point of trying.
  • You feel bad about yourself—worthless, guilty, or just “wrong” in some way
  • You sleep too much or not enough.
  • You have frequent, unexplained headaches or other physical problems.
  • Anything and everything makes you cry.
  • You’ve gained or lost weight without consciously trying to.
  • You just can’t concentrate. Your grades may be plummeting because of it.
  • You feel helpless and hopeless .
  • You’re thinking about death or suicide. (If this is true, talk to someone right away!)

Is your friend depressed?

If you’re a teenager with a friend who seems down or troubled, you may suspect depression. But how do you know it’s not just a passing phase or a bad mood? Look for common warning signs of teen depression:

  • Your friend doesn’t want to do the things you guys used to love to do.
  • Your friend starts using alcohol or drugs or hanging with a bad crowd.
  • Your friend stops going to classes and afterschool activities.
  • Your friend talks about being bad, ugly, stupid, or worthless.
  • Your friend starts talking about death or suicide.

When teen depression turns deadly

If your feelings become so overwhelming that you can’t see any solution besides harming yourself or others, you need to get help right away. And yet, asking for help when you’re in the midst of such strong emotions can be really tough. If talking to a stranger might be easier for you, call in the U.S. to speak in confidence to someone who can understand and help you deal with your feelings. To find a suicide helpline outside the U.S., visit IASP or Suicide.org.

Coping with suicidal thoughts

In the meantime, the following suggestions can help get you through until you feel ready to talk to someone:

  • There is ALWAYS another solution, even if you can’t see it right now. Many kids who have attempted suicide (and survived) say that they did it because they mistakenly felt there was no other solution to a problem they were experiencing. At the time, they could not see another way out, but in truth, they didn’t really want to die. Remember that no matter how horribly you feel, these emotions will pass.
  • Having thoughts of hurting yourself or others does not make you a bad person. Depression can make you think and feel things that are out of character. No one should judge you or condemn you for these feelings if you are brave enough to talk about them.
  • If your feelings are uncontrollable, tell yourself to wait 24 hours before you take any action. This can give you time to really think things through and give yourself some distance from the strong emotions that are plaguing you. During this 24-hour period, try to talk to someone—anyone—as long as they are not another suicidal or depressed person. Call a hotline or talk to a friend. What do you have to lose?
  • If you’re afraid you can’t control yourself, make sure you are never alone. Even if you can’t verbalize your feelings, just stay in public places, hang out with friends or family members, or go to a movie—anything to keep from being by yourself and in danger.

For more suggestions and advice on how to handle suicidal impulses

Read: Suicide Help

Above all, do not do anything that could result in permanent damage or death to yourself or others. Remember, suicide is a “permanent solution to a temporary problem.”Help is available. All you need to do is take that first step and reach out.

Talking to an adult you trust about teen depression

If you are suffering and don’t know where to turn…

In the U.S., call the Nineline.org hotline for children and teens at . It’s free, confidential, and available from 4:00 PM to 8:00 PM, Eastern Time, seven days a week.

In the UK, call the Childline.org.uk helpline for children and teens at .

In Australia, call the Lifeline.org.aus 24-hour helpline at 13 11 14.

In Canada, call the KidsHelpPhone.ca helpline at .

It may seem like there’s no way your parents will be able to help, especially if they are always nagging you or getting angry about your behavior. The truth is, parents hate to see their kids hurting. They may feel frustrated because they don’t understand what is going on with you or know how to help.

Many parents don’t know enough about depression to recognize it in their own kids, so it may be up to you to educate them. You can refer them to this site, or look for further information online. Letting your parents know that you are feeling depressed will probably motivate them to get you the help you need.

If your parents are abusive in any way, or if they have problems of their own that makes it difficult for them to take care of you, find another adult you trust (such as a relative, teacher, counselor, or coach). This person can either help you approach your parents, or direct you toward the support you need. If you truly don’t have anyone you can talk to, refer to our resources at the end of this article. There are many hotlines, services, and support groups that can help.

No matter what, talk to someone, especially if you are having any thoughts of harming yourself or others. Asking for help is the bravest thing you can do, and the first step on your way to feeling better.

The importance of accepting and sharing your feelings

It can be hard to open up about how you’re feeling—especially when you’re feeling depressed, hopeless, ashamed, or worthless.

It’s important to remember that everyone struggles with feelings like these at one time or another. They don’t mean you’re weak, fundamentally flawed, or no good. Accepting your feelings and opening up about them with someone you trust will help you feel less alone.

No matter what it feels like, people love and care about you, and if you can muster the courage to talk about your depression, it can—and will—be resolved. Some people think that talking about sad feelings will make them worse, but the opposite is almost always true. It is very helpful to share your worries with someone who will listen and care. They don’t need to be able to “fix” you; they just need to be good listeners.

What you can do to feel better: Tips for depressed teens

Beating depressionBeating depression, one day at a time

You can’t beat depression through sheer willpower, but you do have some control—even if your depression is severe and stubbornly persistent. The key to depression recovery is to start with a few small goals and slowly build from there. Read Dealing with Depression

Depression is not your fault, and you didn’t do anything to cause it. However, you do have some control over feeling better. Staying connected to friends and family, making healthy lifestyle decisions, and keeping stress under control can all have a hugely positive impact on your mood.

In the meantime, you might need therapy or medication to help you while you sort out your feelings. Look into your treatment options with your parents. If medication is being considered, do your research before making a decision, as some antidepressants used for adults can actually make teens feel worse.

Try not to isolate yourself

When you’re depressed, you may not feel like seeing anybody or doing anything. Just getting out of bed in the morning can be difficult, but isolating yourself only makes depression worse. Make it a point to stay social, even if that’s the last thing you want to do. As you get out into the world, you may find yourself feeling better.

Spend time with friends, especially those who are active, upbeat, and make you feel good about yourself. Avoid hanging out with those who abuse drugs or alcohol, get you into trouble, or who make you feel insecure. It’s also a good idea to limit the time you spend playing video games or surfing online.

Keep your body healthy

Making healthy lifestyle choices can do wonders for your mood. Things like diet and exercise have been shown to help depression. Ever heard of a “runners high”? Exercising releases a rush of endorphins, which makes you feel instantly happier. You actually get a rush of endorphins from exercising, which makes you feel instantly happier. Physical activity can be as effective as medications or therapy for depression, so get involved in sports, ride your bike, or take a dance class. Any activity helps! Even a short walk can be beneficial.

As for food, an improper diet can make you feel sluggish and tired, which worsens depression symptoms. Your body needs vitamins and minerals such as iron and B-vitamins. Make sure you’re feeding your mind with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Talk to your parents, doctor or school nurse about how to ensure your diet is adequately nutritious.

Avoid alcohol and drugs

You may be tempted to drink or use drugs in an effort to escape from your feelings and get a “mood boost,” even if just for a short time. However, substance use can not only make depression worse, but can cause you to become depressed in the first place. Alcohol and drug use can also increase suicidal feelings. In short, drinking and taking drugs will make you feel worse—not better—in the long run.

If you’re addicted to alcohol or drugs, seek help. You will need special treatment for your substance problem on top of whatever treatment you’re receiving for your depression.

Ask for help if you’re stressed

Stress and worry can take a big toll, even leading to depression. Talk to a teacher or school counselor if exams or classes seem overwhelming. Likewise, if you have a health concern you feel you can’t talk to your parents about—such as a pregnancy scare or drug problem—seek medical attention at a clinic or see a doctor. A health professional can help you approach your parents (if that is required) and guide you toward appropriate treatment.

If you’re dealing with relationship, friendship, or family problems, talk to an adult you trust. Your school may have a counselor you can go to for help, or you may want to ask your parents to make an appointment for you to see a therapist.

Helping a depressed friend

Depressed teens typically rely on their friends more than their parents or other adults in their lives, so you may find yourself in the position of being the first—or only—person that they talk to about their feelings. While this might seem like a huge responsibility, there are many things you can do to help.

  • Get your friend to talk to you. Starting a conversation about depression can be daunting, but you can say something simple: “You seem like you are really down, and not yourself. I really want to help you. Is there anything I can do?”
  • Know that your friend doesn’t expect you to have the answers. Your friend probably just needs someone to listen and be supportive. By listening and responding in a non-judgmental and reassuring manner, you are helping in a major way.
  • Encourage your friend to get help. Urge your depressed friend to talk to a parent, teacher, or counselor. It might be scary for your friend to admit to an authority figure that there is a problem. Having you there might help, so offer to go along for support.
  • Stick with your friend through the hard times. Depression can make people do and say things that are hurtful or strange. But your friend is going through a very difficult time, so try not to take it personally. Once your friend gets help, he or she will go back to being the person you know and love. In the meantime, make sure you have other friends or family taking care of you. Your feelings are important and need to be respected, too.
  • Speak up if your friend is suicidal. If your friend is joking or talking about suicide, giving possessions away, or saying goodbye, tell a trusted adult immediately. Your only responsibility at this point is to get your friend help, and get it fast. Even if you promised not to tell, your friend needs your help. It’s better to have a friend who is temporarily angry at you than one who is no longer alive.

The following is from http://www.helpguide.org/mental/depression_tips.htm

Dealing with Depression

Self-Help and Coping Tips to Overcome Depression

Depression Self-Help: Living with Depression in Yourself and Others

Depression drains your energy, hope, and drive, making it difficult to do what you need to feel better. But while overcoming depression isn’t quick or easy, it’s far from impossible. You can’t beat it through sheer willpower, but you do have some control—even if your depression is severe and stubbornly persistent. The key is to start small and build from there. Feeling better takes time, but you can get there if you make positive choices for yourself each day.

The road to depression recovery

Recovering from depression requires action, but taking action when you’re depressed is hard. In fact, just thinking about the things you should do to feel better, like going for a walk or spending time with friends, can be exhausting.

It’s the Catch-22 of depression recovery: The things that help the most are the things that are the most difficult to do. There’s a difference, however, between something that’s difficult and something that’s impossible.

Start small and stay focused

The key to depression recovery is to start with a few small goals and slowly build from there.Draw upon whatever resources you have. You may not have much energy, but you probably have enough to take a short walk around the block or pick up the phone to call a loved one.

Take things one day at a time and reward yourself for each accomplishment. The steps may seem small, but they’ll quickly add up. And for all the energy you put into your depression recovery, you’ll get back much more in return.

Depression self-help tip 1: Cultivate supportive relationships

Getting the support you need plays a big role in lifting the fog of depression and keeping it away. On your own, it can be difficult to maintain perspective and sustain the effort required to beat depression, but the very nature of depression makes it difficult to reach out for help. However, isolation and loneliness make depression even worse, so maintaining your close relationships and social activities are important.

The thought of reaching out to even close family members and friends can seem overwhelming. You may feel ashamed, too exhausted to talk, or guilty for neglecting the relationship. Remind yourself that this is the depression talking. Reaching out is not a sign of weakness and it won’t mean you’re a burden to others. Your loved ones care about you and want to help. And remember, it’s never too late to build new friendships and improve your support network.

  • Turn to trusted friends and family members. Share what you’re going through with the people you love and trust, face to face if possible. The people you talk to don’t have to be able to fix you; they just need to be good listeners. Ask for the help and support you need. You may have retreated from your most treasured relationships, but they can get you through this tough time.
  • Try to keep up with social activities even if you don’t feel like it. Often when you’re depressed, it feels more comfortable to retreat into your shell, but being around other people will make you feel less depressed.
  • Join a support group for depression. Being with others dealing with depression can go a long way in reducing your sense of isolation. You can also encourage each other, give and receive advice on how to cope, and share your experiences.

10 tips for reaching out and building relationships

  • Talk to one person about your feelings.
  • Help someone else by volunteering.
  • Have lunch or coffee with a friend.
  • Ask a loved one to check in with you regularly.
  • Accompany someone to the movies, a concert, or a small get-together.
  • Call or email an old friend.
  • Go for a walk with a workout buddy.
  • Schedule a weekly dinner date.
  • Meet new people by taking a class or joining a club.
  • Confide in a counselor, therapist, or clergy member.

Depression self-help tip 2: Challenge negative thinking

Depression puts a negative spin on everything, including the way you see yourself, the situations you encounter, and your expectations for the future.

But you can’t break out of this pessimistic mind frame by “just thinking positive.” Happy thoughts or wishful thinking won’t cut it. Rather, the trick is to replace negative thoughts with more balanced thoughts.

Ways to challenge negative thinking:

  • Think outside yourself. Ask yourself if you’d say what you’re thinking about yourself to someone else. If not, stop being so hard on yourself. Think about less harsh statements that offer more realistic descriptions.
  • Allow yourself to be less than perfect. Many depressed people are perfectionists, holding themselves to impossibly high standards and then beating themselves up when they fail to meet them. Battle this source of self-imposed stress by challenging your negative ways of thinking
  • Socialize with positive people. Notice how people who always look on the bright side deal with challenges, even minor ones, like not being able to find a parking space. Then consider how you would react in the same situation. Even if you have to pretend, try to adopt their optimism and persistence in the face of difficulty.
  • Keep a “negative thought log.” Whenever you experience a negative thought, jot down the thought and what triggered it in a notebook. Review your log when you’re in a good mood. Consider if the negativity was truly warranted. Ask yourself if there’s another way to view the situation. For example, let’s say your boyfriend was short with you and you automatically assumed that the relationship was in trouble. It’s possible, though, he’s just having a bad day.

Types of negative thinking that add to depression

All-or-nothing thinking – Looking at things in black-or-white categories, with no middle ground (“If I fall short of perfection, I’m a total failure.”)
Overgeneralization – Generalizing from a single negative experience, expecting it to hold true forever (“I can’t do anything right.”)
The mental filter – Ignoring positive events and focusing on the negative. Noticing the one thing that went wrong, rather than all the things that went right.
Diminishing the positive – Coming up with reasons why positive events don’t count (“She said she had a good time on our date, but I think she was just being nice.”)
Jumping to conclusions – Making negative interpretations without actual evidence. You act like a mind reader (“He must think I’m pathetic”) or a fortune teller (“I’ll be stuck in this dead end job forever”)
Emotional reasoning – Believing that the way you feel reflects reality (“I feel like such a loser. I really am no good!”)
‘Shoulds’ and ‘should-nots’ – Holding yourself to a strict list of what you should and shouldn’t do, and beating yourself up if you don’t live up to your rules.
Labeling – Labeling yourself based on mistakes and perceived shortcomings (“I’m a failure; an idiot; a loser.”)

Depression self-help tip 3: Take care of yourself

In order to overcome depression, you have to take care of yourself. This includes following a healthy lifestyle, learning to manage stress, setting limits on what you’re able to do, adopting healthy habits, and scheduling fun activities into your day.

  • Aim for eight hours of sleep. Depression typically involves sleep problems. Whether you’re sleeping too little or too much, your mood suffers. Get on a better sleep schedule by learning healthy sleep habits.
  • Expose yourself to a little sunlight every day. Lack of sunlight can make depression worse. Make sure you’re getting enough. Take a short walk outdoors, have your coffee outside, enjoy an al fresco meal, people-watch on a park bench, or sit out in the garden. Aim for at least 15 minutes of sunlight a day to boost your mood. If you live somewhere with little winter sunshine, try using a light therapy box.
  • Keep stress in check. Not only does stress prolong and worsen depression, but it can also trigger it.  Figure out all the things in your life that stress you out. Examples include: work overload, unsupportive relationships, taking on too much, or health problems. Once you’ve identified your stressors, you can make a plan to avoid them or minimize their impact.
  • Practice relaxation techniques. A daily relaxation practice can help relieve symptoms of depression, reduce stress, and boost feelings of joy and well-being. Try yoga, deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or meditation.
  • Care for a pet. While nothing can replace the human connection, pets can bring joy and companionship into your life and help you feel less isolated. Caring for a pet can also get you outside of yourself and give you a sense of being needed—both powerful antidotes to depression.

Do things you enjoy (or used to)

While you can’t force yourself to have fun or experience pleasure, you can choose to do things that youused to enjoy. Pick up a former hobby or a sport you used to like. Express yourself creatively through music, art, or writing. Go out with friends. Take a day trip to a museum, the mountains, or the ballpark.

Push yourself to do things, even when you don’t feel like it. You might be surprised at how much better you feel once you’re out in the world. Even if your depression doesn’t lift immediately, you’ll gradually feel more upbeat and energetic as you make time for fun activities.

Develop a wellness toolbox

Come up with a list of things that you can do for a quick mood boost. Include any strategies, activities, or skills that have helped in the past. The more “tools” for coping with depression, the better. Try and implement a few of these ideas each day, even if you’re feeling good.

  • Spend some time in nature
  • List what you like about yourself
  • Read a good book
  • Watch a funny movie or TV show
  • Take a long, hot bath
  • Take care of a few small tasks
  • Play with a pet
  • Talk to friends or family face-to-face
  • Listen to music
  • Do something spontaneous

Depression self-help tip 4: Get regular exercise

When you’re depressed, exercising may be the last thing you feel like doing. But exercise is a powerful tool for dealing with depression. In fact, studies show that regular exercise can be as effective as antidepressant medication at increasing energy levels and decreasing feelings of fatigue.

Scientists haven’t figured out exactly why exercise is such a potent antidepressant, but evidence suggests that physical activity triggers new cell growth in the brain, increases mood-enhancing neurotransmitters and endorphins, reduces stress, and relieves muscle tension—all things that can have a positive effect on depression.

To gain the most benefits, aim for 30 minutes of exercise per day. You can start small, though, as short 10-minute bursts of activity can have a positive effect on your mood. Here are a few easy ways to get moving:

  • Take the stairs rather than the elevator
  • Park your car in the farthest spot in the lot
  • Take your dog for a walk
  • Pair up with an exercise partner
  • Walk while you’re talking on the phone

As a next step, try incorporating walks or some other enjoyable, easy form of exercise into your daily routine. The key is to pick an activity you enjoy, so you’re more likely to keep up with it.

Exercise as an Antidepressant

The following exercise tips offer a powerful prescription for boosting mood:

  • Exercise now… and again.  A 10-minute walk can improve your mood for two hours. The key to sustaining mood benefits is to exercise regularly.
  • Choose activities that are moderately intense. Aerobic exercise undoubtedly has mental health benefits, but you don’t need to sweat strenuously to see results.
  • Find exercises that are continuous and rhythmic (rather than intermittent). Walking, swimming, dancing, stationery biking, and yoga are good choices.
  • Add a mind-body element. Activities such as yoga and tai chi rest your mind and increase your energy. You can also add a meditative element to walking or swimming by repeating a mantra (a word or phrase) as you move.
  • Start slowly, and don’t overdo it. More isn’t better. Athletes who over train find their moods drop rather than lift.

Adapted from Johns Hopkins Health Alerts

Depression self-help tip 5: Eat a healthy, mood-boosting diet

Eat a healthy, mood-boosting dietWhat you eat has a direct impact on the way you feel. Aim for a balanced diet of low-fat protein, complex carbohydrates, fruits and vegetables. Reduce your intake of foods that can adversely affect your brain and mood, such as caffeine, alcohol, trans fats, saturated fats, and foods with high levels of chemical preservatives or hormones (such as certain meats).

  • Don’t skip meals. Going too long between meals can make you feel irritable and tired, so aim to eat something at least every three to four hours.
  • Minimize sugar and refined carbs. You may crave sugary snacks, baked goods, or comfort foods such as pasta or French fries, but these “feel-good” foods quickly lead to a crash in mood and energy.
  • Focus on complex carbohydrates. Foods such as baked potatoes, whole-wheat pasta, oatmeal, and whole grain breads can boost serotonin levels without a crash.
  • Boost your B vitamins. Deficiencies in B vitamins such as folic acid and B-12 can trigger depression. To get more, take a B-complex vitamin supplement or eat more citrus fruit, leafy greens, beans, chicken, and eggs.
  • Try super-foods rich in nutrients that can boost mood, such as bananas (magnesium to decrease anxiety, vitamin B6 to promote alertness, tryptophan to boost feel-good serotonin levels), brown rice (serotonin, thiamine to support sociability), and spinach (magnesium, folate to reduce agitation and improve sleep).
  • Consider taking a chromium supplement. Some depression studies show that chromium picolinate reduces carbohydrate cravings, eases mood swings, and boosts energy. Supplementing with chromium picolinate is especially effective for people who tend to overeat and oversleep when depressed.

Omega-3 fatty acids play an essential role in stabilizing mood.

  • Foods rich in certain omega-3 fats called EPA and DHA can give your mood a big boost.The best sources are fatty fish such as salmon, herring, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, and some cold-water fish oil supplements. Canned albacore tuna and lake trout can also be good sources, depending on how the fish were raised and processed. When cooking fish, grill or bake rather than fry.
  • You may hear a lot about getting your omega-3s from foods rich in ALA fatty acids, such as vegetable oils and nuts (especially walnuts), flax, soybeans, and tofu. Be aware that our bodies generally convert very little ALA into EPA and DHA, so you may not see as big of a benefit.
  • Some people avoid seafood because they worry about mercury or other possible toxins, but most experts agree that the benefits of eating one or two servings a week of cold-water fatty fish outweigh the risks.

Depression self-help tip 6: Know when to get additional help

If you find your depression getting worse and worse, seek professional help. Needing additional help doesn’t mean you’re weak. Sometimes the negative thinking in depression can make you feel like you’re a lost cause, but depression can be treated and you can feel better!

Don’t forget about these self-help tips, though. Even if you’re receiving professional help, these tips can be part of your treatment plan, speeding your recovery and preventing depression from returning.

The following is from http://www.helpguide.org/mental/living_depressed_person.htm

Helpguide / Harvard Collaboration

Helping a Depressed Person

How to Reach Out and Help Someone While Taking Care of Yourself

Depression: Signs & Symptoms

When a family member or friend suffers from depression, your support and encouragement can play an important role in his or her recovery. However, depression can also wear you down if you neglect your own needs. These guidelines can help you support a depressed person while maintaining your own emotional equilibrium.

Helping a depressed friend or family member

Depression is a serious but treatable disorder that affects millions of people, from young to old and from all walks of life. It gets in the way of everyday life, causing tremendous pain, hurting not just those suffering from it, but also impacting everyone around them.

If someone you love is depressed, you may be experiencing any number of difficult emotions, including helplessness, frustration, anger, fear, guilt, and sadness. These feelings are all normal. It’s not easy dealing with a friend or family member’s depression. And if you don’t take care of yourself, it can become overwhelming.

That said, there are steps you can take to help your loved one. Start by learning about depression and how to talk about it with your friend or family member. But as you reach out, don’t forget to look after your own emotional health. Thinking about your own needs is not an act of selfishness—it’s a necessity. Your emotional strength will allow you to provide the ongoing support your depressed friend or family member needs.

Understanding depression in a friend or family member:

  • Depression is a serious condition. Don’t underestimate the seriousness of depression. Depression drains a person’s energy, optimism, and motivation. Your depressed loved one can’t just “snap out of it” by sheer force of will.
  • The symptoms of depression aren’t personal. Depression makes it difficult for a person to connect on a deep emotional level with anyone, even the people he or she loves most. In addition, depressed people often say hurtful things and lash out in anger. Remember that this is the depression talking, not your loved one, so try not to take it personally.
  • Hiding the problem won’t make it go away. Don’t be an enabler. It doesn’t help anyone involved if you are making excuses, covering up the problem, or lying for a friend or family member who is depressed. In fact, this may keep the depressed person from seeking treatment.
  • You can’t “fix” someone else’s depression. Don’t try to rescue your loved one from depression. It’s not up to you to fix the problem, nor can you. You’re not to blame for your loved one’s depression or responsible for his or her happiness (or lack thereof). Ultimately, recovery is in the hands of the depressed person.

Is my friend or family member depressed?

Family and friends are often the first line of defense in the fight against depression. That’s why it’s important to understand the signs and symptoms of depression. You may notice the problem in a depressed loved one before he or she does, and your influence and concern can motivate that person to seek help.

Be concerned if your loved one…

  • Doesn’t seem to care about anything anymore.
  • Is uncharacteristically sad, irritable, short-tempered, critical, or moody.
  • Has lost interest in work, sex, hobbies, and other pleasurable activities.
  • Talks about feeling “helpless” or “hopeless.”
  • Expresses a bleak or negative outlook on life.
  • Frequently complains of aches and pains such as headaches, stomach problems, and back pain.
  • Complains of feeling tired and drained all the time.
  • Has withdrawn from friends, family, and other social activities.
  • Sleeps less than usual or oversleeps.
  • Eats more or less than usual, and has recently gained or lost weight.
  • Has become indecisive, forgetful, disorganized, and “out of it.”
  • Drinks more or abuses drugs, including prescription sleeping pills and painkillers.

How to talk to a loved one about depression

Sometimes it is hard to know what to say when speaking to a loved one about depression. You might fear that if you bring up your worries he or she will get angry, feel insulted, or ignore your concerns. You may be unsure what questions to ask or how to be supportive.

If you don’t know where to start, the following suggestions may help. But remember that being a compassionate listener is much more important than giving advice. You don’t have to try to “fix” the person; you just have to be a good listener. Often, the simple act of talking to someone face to face can be an enormous help to someone suffering from depression. Encourage the depressed person to talk about his or her feelings, and be willing to listen without judgment.

Don’t expect a single conversation to be the end of it. Depressed people tend to withdraw from others and isolate themselves. You may need to express your concern and willingness to listen over and over again. Be gentle, yet persistent.

Ways to start the conversation:

  • I have been feeling concerned about you lately.
  • Recently, I have noticed some differences in you and wondered how you are doing.
  • I wanted to check in with you because you have seemed pretty down lately.

Questions you can ask:

  • When did you begin feeling like this?
  • Did something happen that made you start feeling this way?
  • How can I best support you right now?
  • Have you thought about getting help?

Remember, being supportive involves offering encouragement and hope. Very often, this is a matter of talking to the person in language that he or she will understand and respond to while in a depressed mind frame.

What you can say that helps:

  • You are not alone in this. I’m here for you.
  • You may not believe it now, but the way you’re feeling will change.
  • I may not be able to understand exactly how you feel, but I care about you and want to help.
  • When you want to give up, tell yourself you will hold on for just one more day, hour, minute — whatever you can manage.
  • You are important to me. Your life is important to me.
  • Tell me what I can do now to help you.

Avoid saying:

  • It’s all in your head.
  • We all go through times like this.
  • Look on the bright side.
  • You have so much to live for why do you want to die?
  • I can’t do anything about your situation.
  • Just snap out of it.
  • What’s wrong with you?
  • Shouldn’t you be better by now?

Adapted from: The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Taking care of yourself while helping a depressed person

There’s a natural impulse to want to fix the problems of people we love, but you can’t control a loved one’s depression. You can, however, control how well you take care of yourself. It’s just as important for you to stay healthy as it is for the depressed person to get treatment, so make your own well-being a priority.

Remember the advice of airline flight attendants: put on your own oxygen mask before you assist anyone else. In other words, make sure your own health and happiness are solid before you try to help someone who is depressed. You won’t do your friend or family member any good if you collapse under the pressure of trying to help. When your own needs are taken care of, you’ll have the energy you need to lend a helping hand.

Tips for taking care of yourself

Think of this challenging time like a marathon; you need extra sustenance to keep yourself going. The following ideas will help you keep your strength up as you support your loved one through depression treatment and recovery.

  • Speak up for yourself. You may be hesitant to speak out when the depressed person in your life upsets you or lets you down. However, honest communication will actually help the relationship in the long run. If you’re suffering in silence and letting resentment build, your loved one will pick up on these negative emotions and feel even worse. Gently talk about how you’re feeling before pent-up emotions make it too hard to communicate with sensitivity.
  • Set boundaries. Of course you want to help, but you can only do so much. Your own health will suffer if you let your life be controlled by your loved one’s depression. You can’t be a caretaker round the clock without paying a psychological price. To avoid burnout and resentment, set clear limits on what you are willing and able to do. You are not your loved one’s therapist, so don’t take on that responsibility.
  • Stay on track with your own life.While some changes in your daily routine may be unavoidable while caring for your friend or relative, do your best to keep appointments and plans with friends. If your depressed loved one is unable to go on an outing or trip you had planned, ask a friend to join you instead.
  • Seek support. You are NOT betraying your depressed relative or friend by turning to others for support. Joining a support group, talking to a counselor or clergyman, or confiding in a trusted friend will help you get through this tough time. You don’t need to go into detail about your loved one’s depression or betray confidences; instead focus on your emotions and what you are feeling. Make sure you can be totally honest with the person you turn to—no judging your emotions!

Encouraging a depressed person to get help

Beating depression, one day at a time

You can’t beat depression through sheer willpower, but you do have some control—even if your depression is severe and stubbornly persistent. The key to depression recovery is to start with a few small goals and slowly build from there. Feeling better takes time, but you can get there if you make positive choices for yourself each day and draw on the support of others. Read Dealing with Depression

While you can’t control someone else’s recovery from depression, you can start by encouraging the depressed person to seek help. Getting a depressed person into treatment can be difficult. Depression saps energy and motivation, so even the act of making an appointment or finding a doctor can seem daunting. Depression also involves negative ways of thinking. The depressed person may believe that the situation is hopeless and treatment pointless.

Because of these obstacles, getting your loved one to admit to the problem—and helping him or her see that it can be solved—is an essential step in depression recovery.

If your friend or family member resists getting help for depression:

  • Suggest a general check-up with a physician. Your loved one may be less anxious about seeing a family doctor than a mental health professional. A regular doctor’s visit is actually a great option, since the doctor can rule out medical causes of depression. If the doctor diagnoses depression, he or she can refer your loved one to a psychiatrist or psychologist. Sometimes, this “professional” opinion makes all the difference.
  • Offer to help your depressed loved one find a doctor or therapist and go with them on the first visit. Finding the right treatment provider can be difficult, and is often a trial-and-error process. For a depressed person already low on energy, it is a huge help to have assistance making calls and looking into the options.
  • Encourage the person to make a thorough list of symptoms and ailments to discuss with the doctor. You can even bring up things that you have noticed as an outside observer, such as, “You seem to feel much worse in the mornings,” or “You always get stomach pains before work.”

Supporting the depression treatment process

One of the most important things you can do to help a friend or relative with depression is to give your unconditional love and support throughout the treatment process. This involves being compassionate and patient, which is not always easy when dealing with the negativity, hostility, and moodiness that go hand in hand with depression.

  • Provide whatever assistance the person needs (and is willing to accept).Help your loved one make and keep appointments, research treatment options, and stay on schedule with any treatment prescribed.
  • Have realistic expectations.It can be frustrating to watch a depressed friend or family member struggle, especially if progress is slow or stalled. Having patience is important. Even with optimal treatment, recovery from depression doesn’t happen overnight.
  • Lead by example. Encourage your friend or family member to lead a healthier, mood-boosting lifestyle by doing it yourself: maintain a positive outlook, eat better, avoid alcohol and drugs, exercise, and lean on others for support.
  • Encourage activity. Invite your loved one to join you in uplifting activities, like going to a funny movie or having dinner at a favorite restaurant. Exercise is especially helpful, so try to get your depressed loved one moving. Going on walks together is one of the easiest options. Be gently and lovingly persistent—don’t get discouraged or stop asking.
  • Pitch in when possible. Seemingly small tasks can be hard for a depressed person to manage. Offer to help out with household responsibilities or chores, but only do what you can without getting burned out yourself!

The risk of suicide is real

What to do in a crisis situation

If you believe your loved one is at an immediate risk for suicide, do NOT leave the person alone.

Dial 911 or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at .

It may be hard to believe that the person you know and love would ever consider something as drastic as suicide, but a depressed person may not see any other way out. Depression clouds judgment and distorts thinking, causing a normally rational person to believe that death is the only way to end the pain he or she is feeling.

When someone is depressed, suicide is a very real danger. It’s important to know the warning signs:

  • Talking about suicide, dying, or harming oneself
  • Preoccupation with death
  • Expressing feelings of hopelessness or self-hate
  • Acting in dangerous or self-destructive ways
  • Getting affairs in order and saying goodbye
  • Seeking out pills, weapons, or other lethal objects
  • Sudden sense of calm after a depression

If you think a friend or family member might be considering suicide, talk to him or her about your concerns as soon as possible. Many people feel uncomfortable bringing up the topic but it is one of the best things you can do for someone who is thinking about suicide. Talking openly about suicidal thoughts and feelings can save a person’s life, so speak up if you’re concerned and seek professional help immediately!

 

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