Category: Depression Articles
It could be the most important
conversation you'll ever have. Get expert advice on how to talk to a
loved one who you think may be depressed.
Dr. Gail Saltz from The Oprah Winfrey Show, "An Actress, a Supermodel
and a Country Star Pull Back the Veil on Depression"
Helping a loved
one who's suffering from depression can be a difficult and emotional
process. Psychiatrist Dr. Gail Saltz, author of Anatomy of a Secret
Life: Are the People in Your Life Hiding Something You Should Know
offers expert advice on how you can best help a friend or relative out
of the darkness.
that depression is an illness.
bring feelings of denial and shame in those who are suffering, so it's
important to realize that your loved one can't just "snap out of it."
Dr. Saltz says the first step is to realize that depression is a medical
condition. "In fact, more than half of this country still believes that
depression is due to personal weakness as opposed to understanding that
it's an illness," Dr. Saltz says. "Treat the illness, and they can be
like anyone else."
that isolation is often a symptom of depression.
If you've noticed
a friend or relative has stopped going out or communicating with
others, this may be a sign of depression. Make yourself a regular
presence in that person's life. "Part of the disease is not wanting to
talk or go out," Dr. Saltz says.
Don't let a loved
one isolate him or herself, Dr. Saltz says. "Push them. Say, 'I know
you don't want to, but I'm not taking no for an answer. We haven't
talked in awhile. I'm coming over,'" she says. "They need connection. If
you're busy being polite, it won't go well."
conversations are ideal, Dr. Saltz says, because depressed people aren't
usually very verbal. But if you are in a long-distance situation where
you can't be face-to-face with that person, Dr. Saltz says to make
regular phone calls. "Be persistent," she says.
distance yourself from a depressed loved one.
It can be hard to
be around a loved one who is depressed, but Dr. Saltz urges people to
remain present in that person's life. "Most people's reaction—it isn't
conscious—is to pull away, get away," Dr. Saltz says. If this is your
reaction, it doesn't mean you are a bad person.
Dr. Saltz says
loved ones of depressed people are sometimes afraid that if they
identify with that person, they will also get pulled into the darkness.
"Know that you can talk to them without feeling what they feel," she
says. "You can do a great service by reaching out. You don't have to
imagine what it feels like."
your own limitations and feelings.
who is depressed isn't always easy, so don't be afraid to accept your
own feelings. "Recognize you might get angry with them because it seems
like they aren't trying," Dr. Saltz says. "It's important to recognize
you can help but you can't make someone have treatment. You can't
necessarily feel like you are responsible for them."
afraid to ask if they are suicidal.
Dr. Saltz says
one of the biggest myths about depression is that you should never ask
someone if they are contemplating suicide. "That's not true," says Dr.
Saltz. "It's important to ask."
If you find out a
friend or relative is thinking about suicide, take it very seriously—15
percent of "most people do tell someone. Sometimes it's a cry for
help," Dr. Saltz says. "There's no way of knowing for sure, but if you
have to go that distance to ask someone, it's not to be taken lightly."
In fact, asking
someone about whether or not they are suicidal can provide some relief
and open up a path to treatment, Dr. Saltz says.
loved one admits they are suicidal, keep asking questions.
If a friend or
relative tells you they are thinking about killing themselves, Dr. Saltz
says it's important to ask if they have a plan. "The suicide rate is 15
percent completions for depression," Dr. Saltz says. "Most often,
they'll tell you the whole plan."
When your loved
one has admitted to considering suicide, Dr. Saltz says to take action
immediately. There is a lower risk of suicide if they don't have an
easily accessible method, so remove all potentially dangerous items.
Then, find them a mental health professional immediately or drive them
to the emergency room for a one-on-one intervention.
If you have a
loved one who is not severely depressed but still struggling, Dr. Saltz
says you should urge them to seek treatment. Say that you are aware that
there are a number of treatments and that they don't have to feel bad
all the time. "Sometimes they need a crowbar. If you can just offer to
make a call for them or drive them to an appointment, it can mean the
difference between getting help and not getting help," Dr. Saltz says.
power, and the more you know, the more you can help someone you love.
Here are some resources that can help you save a life: