Helping a depressed family member

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Depression is a medical condition that can be serious. The National Institutes of Mental Health say depression can affect how you feel, think and cope with daily life. Eating, sleeping, socializing and working can all be difficult for someone with depression.


If a member of your family has depression, there are ways to support them.


Tip #1:

Don’t tell them to “just snap out of it.” Experts believe depression is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. This may be due to genetics or it may be triggered by a stressful event such as death of a family member, divorce or abuse. Sometimes, a cause cannot be found. It’s important to understand that the person’s everyday actions may be affected by this disease, and they can’t make it just go away.


Tip #2:

Take medical care seriously. Treatment for depression often involves medication  and/or therapy. It can take some time to find the treatment that works for your family member. Whenever possible, offer to go with them to doctor appointments. Support them in following their treatment plan. Do what you can to make sure they take medications as prescribed without forcing or arguing.


Tip #3:

Offer to take them out, but don’t push. Many people with depression struggle to get out of bed each day or leave the house. But, with treatment, it is possible to start enjoying life again. Ask the family member if they’d like to do something simple, such as go to the store or park. If they decline, wait a few days and offer again. Eventually, they may say yes.


Tip #4:

Listen when they want to talk. If your family member wishes to talk about his or her feelings, let them do so without judging or offering advice. Simply listen to their thoughts and feelings without trying to “fix” anything.


Take loved ones’ comments about suicide or self-harm seriously. Many times a person will confide in a loved one prior to committing a harmful act.


With help from a doctor, depression can be treated. Let your family member know you care, and ask them to get the medical help they need. Proper medical care can help them get on the path to a healthier, happier life.

This website is not meant to substitute for expert medical advice or treatment. Follow your doctor’s or health care provider’s advice if it differs from what is given in this guide.


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