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Eight Ways to Help a Friend with Depression

More than 16 million men and women in America – roughly 6.7 percent of the adult population – have had at least one major depressive episode in the past year, making it one of the most common mental illnesses in America. In addition, 3.1 million adolescents are affected each year.

Many people experience the lonely feeling of short-term sadness or a “blue” mood, but unless it lasts for more than two weeks and is detrimental to a person’s ability to work, carry out usual daily activities or have satisfying personal relationships, it is not indicative of major depressive disorder.

Depression is not caused by one thing and often involves the interaction of diverse biological, psychological and social factors. The underlying emotion of depression is one of powerlessness and the inability to change a situation like:

  1. A seasonal change (loss of natural sunlight in the fall and winter months)
  2. Long-term poverty
  3. Being a victim of a crime
  4. Side-effects of certain medications
  5. Bullying
  6. A death of a close loved one
  7. Having a baby
  8. Difficulty of finding a job
  9. Premenstrual changes in hormone levels
  10. Intoxication or withdrawal from alcohol
  11. Caring full-time for a person with a long-term disability

Seeing a loved one or someone you care about live with depression can be very hard, but it is important to intervene early before it becomes serious enough for them to consider self-harm. It is especially important to remember that you must be non-judgmental in your approach so you don’t exacerbate the problem or push them away from their support system. To ensure that you provide the best care you can, here are a few communication skills to remember:

  1. Ask questions with a genuine concern and listen to the answer to better understand.
  2. Clarify your understanding by restating what you heard and summarizing their facts and feelings.
  3. Listen to the tone of voice and non-verbal cues. They can reveal issues that are not being verbally communicated.
  4. Do not interrupt with phrases like “I see” or “ah” or “okay.” It can slow down or even stop the conversation altogether.
  5. Be patient with the process in which the person is communicating, even if they are speaking slowly, repeating themselves or not speaking clearly.
  6. Do not be critical or express frustration because of what the person is revealing.
  7. Do not use language like “pull yourself together” or “cheer up” or “it will be alright.”
  8. Do not interrupt to tell them a story about yourself or give your point of view.

One way to help aid the mental health of your loved one is to become trained and certified to identify and respond to signs and symptoms of depression. Find a Mental Health First Aid course near you and #BeTheDifference in the life of someone who may need your support today.