Helping Someone With Chronic Depression

Reviewed Aug 17, 2017

Close

E-mail Article

Complete form to e-mail article…

Required fields are denoted by an asterisk (*) adjacent to the label.

Separate multiple recipients with a comma

Close

Sign-Up For Newsletters

Complete this form to sign-up for newsletters…

Required fields are denoted by an asterisk (*) adjacent to the label.

 

Summary

  • Keep an ear open for suicidal feelings, thoughts and actions.
  • Encourage a depressed person to find treatment and stick with it.
  • Support healthy choices and activities, and help sustain hope.

If you are like most people, you have a friend or relative who has chronic depression. We call depression chronic when it lasts two years or longer. The effects of depression on your work, social life, self-care and health can be devastating. Chronic depression is treatable, but it usually won’t go away without help.

What can you do to make things better for someone with chronic depression? Here are a few suggestions:

Avoid blame, shame and denial. A person who has been depressed for a long time often starts to feel guilty and responsible for not getting better. There are steps to take that can improve matters, but clinical depression is a medical disease and not appropriate for blame or shame.

You can help someone with chronic depression by being a good and supportive listener. Let them know you are concerned, but avoid the temptation to give lots of advice in order to “fix” the problem. Support, encouragement, praise for steps forward, and continued engagement can make the difference between life and death for your friend.

Keep an ear open for suicidal thoughts. Do not dismiss expressions of hopelessness or suicidal feelings. If you hear comments such as, “There’s no point in going on” or “I don’t know why I keep trying,” ask directly about suicidal thoughts or plans. You can decide the best way to ask, but some possibilities are: “Are you feeling like you’d be better off dead?” “Have you thought about ending your life?” or “Do you feel that you’re in danger of hurting yourself?” Suicidal comments are often a plea for help and your concerned response may save a life. Also be on the alert if someone begins to give away her possessions or finds ways to say “goodbye” by visiting relatives or friends she has not seen in a while.

Be aware that asking about suicide does not increase the risk of someone attempting it. In fact, not asking about it may keep you from reaching out to help a friend or loved one.

Support healthy lifestyle choices. A depressed person neglects self-care, sleep, proper diet, exercise, social interactions and enjoyable activities. Avoid stressing your friend, but notice and encourage good choices. Make a healthy meal together, or go for a walk and spend time outside. Take a class together. Find a social event that you can share. Arrange a fun outing to a baseball game or to a museum or a picnic. As the weeks or month pass, resist the urge to withdraw. Over time, your support becomes more and more valuable as other friends may distance themselves from a depressed person. 

Find help. Your depressed friend or relative may find it difficult to get needed help. Avoidance, expense, insurance restrictions and clinician unavailability all get in the way of finding treatment. Psychotherapy with or without medicine is often the best way to treat chronic depression. But it may be confusing to find your way to a mental health clinician with the right skills and with an approach that wins your confidence and trust.

Sitting with your friend and helping to make calls to clinicians, or even to a concerned primary care doctor, is often very helpful. It may even be a good idea to accompany your friend to that first, often most difficult, appointment. Offer to drive if that will make it easier. That way, if your friend allows it, the clinician can hear information that only you may be able to provide. Also, if treatment seems to be bogged down for too long a time, suggest that your friend seek a consultation. A fresh view from another skilled clinician may help to get things back on track.

Consider the role of spirituality. Many individuals rely upon their faith to get them through difficult times or life challenges. Spirituality can help in cases of chronic depression. It may help answer the question of purpose or meaningfulness in one’s life. It can also be a source of comfort when answers are not easy to come by. Studies have shown that spirituality can help to reframe traumatic events to make them more manageable. Building an understanding based on healthy perspectives may help the way we see a particular event in a way that makes sense for us. This can help decrease posttraumatic symptoms.

Be a voice of hope! The famous commander, Captain James Lawrence, urged his men during a dangerous naval battle, “Don’t give up the ship!” Chronic depression is a treatable disease and many people will get better with healthy lifestyle choices and skilled treatment. Being a voice of hope for someone who is discouraged takes time and energy. Your support and caring will mean the world to someone dear to you and will help them along the way to recovery.

Resources

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
(800) 826-3632
www.dbsalliance.org

By James M. Ellison, MD, MPH
Source: Gelenberg AJ, Kocsis JH, McCullough JP et al. The state of knowledge of chronic depression. J Clin Psychiatry 2006;67(2):179-184.
Reviewed by Gary R. Proctor, MD Regional Chief Medical Officer, Southeast/Central Region, Beacon Health Options

Summary

  • Keep an ear open for suicidal feelings, thoughts and actions.
  • Encourage a depressed person to find treatment and stick with it.
  • Support healthy choices and activities, and help sustain hope.

If you are like most people, you have a friend or relative who has chronic depression. We call depression chronic when it lasts two years or longer. The effects of depression on your work, social life, self-care and health can be devastating. Chronic depression is treatable, but it usually won’t go away without help.

What can you do to make things better for someone with chronic depression? Here are a few suggestions:

Avoid blame, shame and denial. A person who has been depressed for a long time often starts to feel guilty and responsible for not getting better. There are steps to take that can improve matters, but clinical depression is a medical disease and not appropriate for blame or shame.

You can help someone with chronic depression by being a good and supportive listener. Let them know you are concerned, but avoid the temptation to give lots of advice in order to “fix” the problem. Support, encouragement, praise for steps forward, and continued engagement can make the difference between life and death for your friend.

Keep an ear open for suicidal thoughts. Do not dismiss expressions of hopelessness or suicidal feelings. If you hear comments such as, “There’s no point in going on” or “I don’t know why I keep trying,” ask directly about suicidal thoughts or plans. You can decide the best way to ask, but some possibilities are: “Are you feeling like you’d be better off dead?” “Have you thought about ending your life?” or “Do you feel that you’re in danger of hurting yourself?” Suicidal comments are often a plea for help and your concerned response may save a life. Also be on the alert if someone begins to give away her possessions or finds ways to say “goodbye” by visiting relatives or friends she has not seen in a while.

Be aware that asking about suicide does not increase the risk of someone attempting it. In fact, not asking about it may keep you from reaching out to help a friend or loved one.

Support healthy lifestyle choices. A depressed person neglects self-care, sleep, proper diet, exercise, social interactions and enjoyable activities. Avoid stressing your friend, but notice and encourage good choices. Make a healthy meal together, or go for a walk and spend time outside. Take a class together. Find a social event that you can share. Arrange a fun outing to a baseball game or to a museum or a picnic. As the weeks or month pass, resist the urge to withdraw. Over time, your support becomes more and more valuable as other friends may distance themselves from a depressed person. 

Find help. Your depressed friend or relative may find it difficult to get needed help. Avoidance, expense, insurance restrictions and clinician unavailability all get in the way of finding treatment. Psychotherapy with or without medicine is often the best way to treat chronic depression. But it may be confusing to find your way to a mental health clinician with the right skills and with an approach that wins your confidence and trust.

Sitting with your friend and helping to make calls to clinicians, or even to a concerned primary care doctor, is often very helpful. It may even be a good idea to accompany your friend to that first, often most difficult, appointment. Offer to drive if that will make it easier. That way, if your friend allows it, the clinician can hear information that only you may be able to provide. Also, if treatment seems to be bogged down for too long a time, suggest that your friend seek a consultation. A fresh view from another skilled clinician may help to get things back on track.

Consider the role of spirituality. Many individuals rely upon their faith to get them through difficult times or life challenges. Spirituality can help in cases of chronic depression. It may help answer the question of purpose or meaningfulness in one’s life. It can also be a source of comfort when answers are not easy to come by. Studies have shown that spirituality can help to reframe traumatic events to make them more manageable. Building an understanding based on healthy perspectives may help the way we see a particular event in a way that makes sense for us. This can help decrease posttraumatic symptoms.

Be a voice of hope! The famous commander, Captain James Lawrence, urged his men during a dangerous naval battle, “Don’t give up the ship!” Chronic depression is a treatable disease and many people will get better with healthy lifestyle choices and skilled treatment. Being a voice of hope for someone who is discouraged takes time and energy. Your support and caring will mean the world to someone dear to you and will help them along the way to recovery.

Resources

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
(800) 826-3632
www.dbsalliance.org

By James M. Ellison, MD, MPH
Source: Gelenberg AJ, Kocsis JH, McCullough JP et al. The state of knowledge of chronic depression. J Clin Psychiatry 2006;67(2):179-184.
Reviewed by Gary R. Proctor, MD Regional Chief Medical Officer, Southeast/Central Region, Beacon Health Options

Summary

  • Keep an ear open for suicidal feelings, thoughts and actions.
  • Encourage a depressed person to find treatment and stick with it.
  • Support healthy choices and activities, and help sustain hope.

If you are like most people, you have a friend or relative who has chronic depression. We call depression chronic when it lasts two years or longer. The effects of depression on your work, social life, self-care and health can be devastating. Chronic depression is treatable, but it usually won’t go away without help.

What can you do to make things better for someone with chronic depression? Here are a few suggestions:

Avoid blame, shame and denial. A person who has been depressed for a long time often starts to feel guilty and responsible for not getting better. There are steps to take that can improve matters, but clinical depression is a medical disease and not appropriate for blame or shame.

You can help someone with chronic depression by being a good and supportive listener. Let them know you are concerned, but avoid the temptation to give lots of advice in order to “fix” the problem. Support, encouragement, praise for steps forward, and continued engagement can make the difference between life and death for your friend.

Keep an ear open for suicidal thoughts. Do not dismiss expressions of hopelessness or suicidal feelings. If you hear comments such as, “There’s no point in going on” or “I don’t know why I keep trying,” ask directly about suicidal thoughts or plans. You can decide the best way to ask, but some possibilities are: “Are you feeling like you’d be better off dead?” “Have you thought about ending your life?” or “Do you feel that you’re in danger of hurting yourself?” Suicidal comments are often a plea for help and your concerned response may save a life. Also be on the alert if someone begins to give away her possessions or finds ways to say “goodbye” by visiting relatives or friends she has not seen in a while.

Be aware that asking about suicide does not increase the risk of someone attempting it. In fact, not asking about it may keep you from reaching out to help a friend or loved one.

Support healthy lifestyle choices. A depressed person neglects self-care, sleep, proper diet, exercise, social interactions and enjoyable activities. Avoid stressing your friend, but notice and encourage good choices. Make a healthy meal together, or go for a walk and spend time outside. Take a class together. Find a social event that you can share. Arrange a fun outing to a baseball game or to a museum or a picnic. As the weeks or month pass, resist the urge to withdraw. Over time, your support becomes more and more valuable as other friends may distance themselves from a depressed person. 

Find help. Your depressed friend or relative may find it difficult to get needed help. Avoidance, expense, insurance restrictions and clinician unavailability all get in the way of finding treatment. Psychotherapy with or without medicine is often the best way to treat chronic depression. But it may be confusing to find your way to a mental health clinician with the right skills and with an approach that wins your confidence and trust.

Sitting with your friend and helping to make calls to clinicians, or even to a concerned primary care doctor, is often very helpful. It may even be a good idea to accompany your friend to that first, often most difficult, appointment. Offer to drive if that will make it easier. That way, if your friend allows it, the clinician can hear information that only you may be able to provide. Also, if treatment seems to be bogged down for too long a time, suggest that your friend seek a consultation. A fresh view from another skilled clinician may help to get things back on track.

Consider the role of spirituality. Many individuals rely upon their faith to get them through difficult times or life challenges. Spirituality can help in cases of chronic depression. It may help answer the question of purpose or meaningfulness in one’s life. It can also be a source of comfort when answers are not easy to come by. Studies have shown that spirituality can help to reframe traumatic events to make them more manageable. Building an understanding based on healthy perspectives may help the way we see a particular event in a way that makes sense for us. This can help decrease posttraumatic symptoms.

Be a voice of hope! The famous commander, Captain James Lawrence, urged his men during a dangerous naval battle, “Don’t give up the ship!” Chronic depression is a treatable disease and many people will get better with healthy lifestyle choices and skilled treatment. Being a voice of hope for someone who is discouraged takes time and energy. Your support and caring will mean the world to someone dear to you and will help them along the way to recovery.

Resources

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
(800) 826-3632
www.dbsalliance.org

By James M. Ellison, MD, MPH
Source: Gelenberg AJ, Kocsis JH, McCullough JP et al. The state of knowledge of chronic depression. J Clin Psychiatry 2006;67(2):179-184.
Reviewed by Gary R. Proctor, MD Regional Chief Medical Officer, Southeast/Central Region, Beacon Health Options

The information provided on the Achieve Solutions site, including, but not limited to, articles, quizzes, and other general information, is for informational purposes only and should not be treated as medical, health care, psychiatric, psychological or behavioral health care advice. Nothing contained on the Achieve Solutions site is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment or as a substitute for consultation with a qualified health care professional. Please direct questions regarding the operation of the Achieve Solutions site to Web Feedback. If you have concerns about your health, please contact your health care provider.  ©2017 Beacon Health Options, Inc.

 

Close

  • Useful Tools

    Select a tool below

© 2017 Beacon Health Options, Inc.