Worried About Someone Else?

If you think someone is in immediate danger, don't carry the burden alone -

GET HELP NOW!

What can I do to help?

Know the warning signs

Communicate your concern

Isolation and lack of support are key factors in depression. Letting the person know you are worried could be a key first step in breaking that isolation.

Be realistic about what you can offer

Be realistic with yourself and honest with the person about what your limits are.

Depression is best dealt with by a professional. Don't take on more than you can handle. Being clear about when and how you are available makes it easier to avoid blow ups or burn out.

Be both sensitive and persistent

Depression affects a person's thinking patterns and sense of perspective. They may be unaware that they are affected or at risk. Don't be surprised if their initial response is abrupt or rejecting. Do persevere in showing you care.

Help build a support network

It is unwise to find yourself the sole source of support. Make it clear that you cannot carry the burden of support alone. Make sure that the person starts to build a support network of friends and family, as well as other appropriate help.

Encourage professional help

Help the person to identify and approach the available sources of professional and other family help, local voluntary help - or local GP, counselling service, Lifeline 0808 808 8000, mentoring schemes, community groups etc.

Ask the person what would be helpful

Don't assume you know what would be most helpful - help which is respectfully negotiated is much more likely to be taken up.

Learn about depression
It is not possible to "snap out" of depression and there are no simple solutions. Read about strategies for depression on this site or elsewhere. Pass on what you have learnt and help the person find what works for them.

You can ask about suicidal thoughts

If you are at all concerned about this, don't be afraid to ask the person directly whether they have any suicidal thoughts. Contrary to popular belief, this is unlikely to "put ideas in their head" but may well offer them the relief of being allowed to talk about a taboo subject. However, do not feel you have to do this - it can be very shocking and disturbing to hear about a loved one's suicidal thoughts. Also, never agree to keep it to yourself. Suicidal thinking is serious and needs professional support.

Get support for yourself

Remind yourself that you cannot take on responsibility for keeping another person safe or making them happy - that responsibility is ultimately theirs. Make sure you are properly supported. It can be extremely stressful living with or caring about a person affected by depression.

A few examples of what a friend could do:

Make a regular arrangement for coffee/a walk/a phone call.
Set aside time to hear how the person is feeling, without advising.
Accompany them to make a doctor's or counselling appointment.
Let them know you care - verbally or by gesture (eg. cook a meal).
Respect their need to be "normal" sometimes and not talk about it.
Continue including them in social arrangements, but don't push too hard.