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Helping a person with depression

Helping a person with depression

If you have friends, family, co-workers who suffer with depression, I'd like to offer a few dos and don'ts for you.

First, you must understand that no depression is the same. People experience this debilitating condition in unique ways so you must listen and observe carefully to what they have trouble with. Most of us have several symptoms but not all which can change over time.

There are many sources for you to get information on depression signs and symptoms. Please read about it to learn before you offer opinions that could worsen the depressed person's condition. We know you mean well but we also have too many people give opinions and advise from their 'normal' perspective which is radically different from our minds.

Here is a good starting list to get an understanding.

The DOS:

Ask non-judgmental questions and be prepared to help or step away if your help is not needed.
Would you like me to do ____________ with you?
Do you want to talk?
Can you describe what you feel? (then LISTEN)
What causes you difficulty today?

Be there and be active!
Depressed people are keenly aware when you pretend to be helpful but your head is elsewhere.
Look into the eyes when talking (or orient your body facing the person)
Relax your body and show openness and alertness

The DON'TS:

Don't break your promise! One of the hardest thing for depressed people is to trust others. When you promise to listen, accompany, or whatever because you really want to help but then break that promise, we loose trust in you and our heart (despite of logic and good reasons) interpret the event as bad and untrustworthy. The consequence is that we loose faith in you and end up with one less resource in time of our need.

Don't pretend to understand what we feel! Not even if you have depression of you own. Each person is different in personality, biology, circumstance, life experience, and so forth which makes their condition unique. Instead, seek to understand their current issues and offer help if you can. If not, then active listening will do.

Don't trivialize depression! Depression is NOT the blues which all of us experience at some point in our lives. Depression is debilitating. Mild or severe, our condition makes it hard to do 'normal' stuff that we are completely capable of. Telling us to 'just get on with it' or 'you are just a bit lazy' is not helpful and often detrimental. We know what the problem is, we just can't find the motivation, energy, clarity of mind to get there.

I think this is a good start... but will expand on it periodically as I think of more.

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