You have learned that someone has depression. You would like to help, but you don’t quite know how. This information is intended for relatives and acquaintances of people suffering from depression. You will be given advice on how to deal with this situation.
At a glance
Relatives can be an important support for people with depression. It is helpful for a person to show understanding, for example, if you. Dealing with a depressed person can be a challenge for family and friends. You can get help yourself, for example psychotherapeutic support. You can also contact a self-help group.
Living with the situation
Depression has many causes and can affect anyone. No one is to blame for the illness, neither you nor the person with the illness. It is not only a burden for the person affected, but also for people in the immediate environment – especially family and friends.
Various complaints can affect everyday life. These include, for example:
depressed, downcast mood
Loss of interest and joylessness
Lack of drive and fatigue
Decreased concentration and attention
decreased self-esteem and self-confidence
Feelings of guilt and worthlessness
Exaggerated fears about the future and "seeing things in black"
Thoughts or attempts to kill yourself
Physical complaints, for example, fatigue, gastrointestinal problems, pain, shortness of breath, feeling of pressure in the throat and chest
What helps sufferers
It can be helpful for a person with depression if you show understanding for his situation and his feelings. If you take him seriously with his illness without dramatizing it. At the same time, you should try to convey to him that help is possible and that he will get better in the future.
You can support the ill person in seeking professional help – just as you would do with other illnesses.
Many depressed people are afraid to be seen as "crazy" to apply. Make it clear that such fears are not justified.
Perhaps you can see yourself as a companion through a difficult time. It helps if you support the affected person: Start with small activities, such as going for a walk or listening to music together. A conversation can also do you good.
It can help if you keep an eye on the treatment, such as taking the prescribed medication regularly or going to the doctor’s office – but without giving the person with the illness a sense of control.
Depressed people can be rejecting. But this is not aimed at you as a person, but is due to the illness. The person is not always able to accept your suggestions. If you respect this without being offended, you help a lot.
Under no circumstances should you downplay the depression, because this shows the person that you do not accept it, even if you mean it quite differently.
Help with mental crises
Sometimes a depressed person seems so hopeless that he or she just doesn’t want to go on. He wants to end his life. This is stressful for family and friendships. It may help to realize that you are not responsible for them.
There is no magic formula for such a situation. You can still do something: By allowing the conversation about it instead of pushing it away, and accepting the other person even in his or her total despair. Just listen, without wanting to intervene right away. Have the courage to ask specific questions, but do not try to talk him out of his thoughts.
There can be more or less clear signs of such a crisis situation. Sometimes people indicate that they want to do something to themselves by making remarks. Rarely do relatives notice that something is being concretely planned. If you think you see imminent danger, you should:
listen and take the situation seriously
Keeping the conversation going
Calling 911 and the police
Do not leave the person alone until help arrives
get rid of dangerous objects
If a person is in danger of endangering himself or others, hospitalization may be necessary – even against the will of the person concerned. The police are responsible for this.
What you can do for yourself
By encouraging the person you care about to seek professional help, you also take the pressure off yourself. In some situations, it is helpful to participate in shared treatment services, such as family or couples counseling.
Educate yourself about the disease and its effects. If you know about depression, you can better understand and support the person with the illness. You can get detailed information in the patient guideline: see below "Explained in detail".
Dealing with a depressed person can cause you to give up a lot of things yourself: things you hold dear, like sports or culture. It may seem selfish for you to enjoy yourself while someone else is suffering. But the person affected is not helped if you do not take care of yourself. And you may eventually lose the strength to be there for others.
Be prepared for depression to take time to treat.
To overcome the challenge, you can seek help yourself, for example psychotherapeutic support. Anything that relieves you will also help the person you care about.
You can also turn to support groups for help. There are special offers for relatives.