Volume 39 Issue 3: Helping Someone With Depression

Take action if you suspect a friend and/or family member suffers from depression. It's a condition that can cloud thinking and make people believe they aren't worth helping, so they often can't help themselves.

Each year millions of Americans suffer from depression -- and this lingering feeling of intense sadness can keep people from going to work or school, or caring for their children.

Yet, nearly two-thirds of people with depression don't seek treatment. Many people believe they get over it by themselves, but depression is an illness that usually requires psychotherapy and/or antidepressant medication to treat. Proper treatment can bring relief for 80 percent of people with the condition.

If someone you know has at least five of the following symptoms of depression for more than two weeks, take steps to help the person:


  • Persistent sadness or irritability

  • Being unable to concentrate

  • Withdrawal-a loss of interest in previously pleasurable activities

  • Difficulty falling and staying asleep

  • Poor appetite

  • Weight loss or weight gain

  • Slowed speech and slowed movements

  • Intense feelings of guilt and or worthlessness

  • Loss of energy or feelings of tiredness

  • Thoughts of death or suicide

In extreme cases, those suffering from depression may talk about ending their lives, hurting themselves or others or giving away their possessions.

Get help

Don't ignore it if you know someone showing non-suicidal signs of depression, such as persistent sadness or irritability or withdrawal.

Out of concern, approach the person and say, "You look different. Is there something wrong?" If your friend or loved one says nothing's wrong, you might say, "Are you sure?" Then get specific.

You might say, "I've noticed you're not yourself at work lately. You seem depressed. I'm concerned and want to help." Don't press the issue if the person doesn't want to discuss it.

But hear out your loved one if he or she is receptive to what you're saying. Then encourage the person to see his or her family doctor for help. You might also offer to go with your loved one to the doctor's appointment.

You might also offer to go with your loved one to the therapist appointment or find another therapist if the one you recommend doesn't work out.

To help someone who may be suicidal, approach the person and say, "You seem depressed. You're talking about ending your life. I think it's time to get help."

You should treat the situation as a medical emergency if the person has made a previous attempt at suicide or if there is a family history of suicide. Call 911 or the police. Contacting your state's local office of mental health is another option. The office may have a mobile crisis unit that disperses a team of mental-health professionals to evaluate a person in danger.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advises health care providers, patients, families and caregivers of adults and children that they should closely monitor all patients beginning therapy with antidepressants and when doses are either increased or decreased, for worsening depression and suicidal thinking. The FDA also advises that these patients be observed for certain behaviors associated with these drugs, such as anxiety, agitation, panic attacks, insomnia, irritability, hostility, impulsivity, severe restlessness, hypomania and mania, and that physicians be particularly vigilant in patients who may have bipolar disorder.

The Food and Drug Administration issued a warning in September 2004 that antidepressants not only cause some children and teenagers to become suicidal but that most have also failed to cure their depression. Children and teens who take antidepressants are twice as likely as those given placebos to become suicidal. Still, the overall risk for suicide is low. If 100 patients are given the drugs, two or three more will become suicidal than would have had they been given placebos.


The StayWell Company, LLC ©2019


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