1. Educate yourself. There are many Internet sites where you can learn about depression, its symptoms, and treatment.
2. Put yourself in their shoes. Learn what depression feels like and the misconceptions about mental illness.
3. Take care of yourself. At time feelings of depression are contagious; take some time to step back from the situation and recharge your batteries.
4. It’s okay to feel upset, angry and/or frustrated. These feelings are a valid response to a very trying situation. Join a support group, talk with a close friend, or see a therapist, counselor, social worker or psychologist.
5. Be there for the one you love. Give them a shoulder to cry on or just listen while they spill out their hearts to you. Be patient with them. Let them know that you care. Let them know it is not their fault, that they are not weak or worthless.
6. Remember that the depressed person’s behavior is not indicative of the “real” person. They may be withdrawn and shy or sullen and angry. When the depressed person lashes out in anger, it is because they are actually angry with themselves and the way they feel. When your spouse or significant other does not feel like having sex, do not take it personally. Loss of sex drive is a classic symptom of depression, as well as the medications used to treat it. It does not mean they do not love you.
7. People diagnosed with depression are sick, ill, not well; they are not lazy. Everyday activities like cleaning house, paying bills, or feeding the dog may seem overwhelming to them. You may have to take up the slack for them for awhile, just like if they had the flu, they simply do not feel up to it.
8. Medications and therapy are crucial for recovery. Help keep them on track with treatment. Help to ease their fears about treatment by letting them know that they are not crazy.
9. Offer hope in whatever form they will accept it: their faith in God, their love for their children, or anything else that makes them want to go on living. Find what works best for them and remind them of it whenever they are not sure they can hang on any longer. If they are suicidal, you may need to seek immediate help. There are some very valuable suicide resources on the Internet that will help you to help your loved cope with suicidal feelings as well.
10. Love them unconditionally and let me know it is their illness you are frustrated with, not them.