Back in December of 2015, I published an article about my history with depression. I was not prepared for the response I got from that article and I was kind of surprised at the number of people who wrote and said that they could identify with my story. I had the good fortune to get to talk about depression with several people and I hope my advice helped.

Well, it's been over a year and I've had a great many changes in my life and I'm happy to tell you that I haven't had any more than a few minor, short-lived bouts of depression in that time. One day, I'll get into all the changes that have come about in my life in the past year or so, but that's not what I want to talk about today. I want to talk to people who have a person in their lives who has depression. There are things you can do to help with the problem, but let me warn you that you can't fix it. Repeat after me, "I can't fix it."

If a person is truly depressed, there is only one thing you, as a caring person, can do for a person with depression and that it understand. You have no idea just how powerful understanding can be. Now, look. Let me make one thing clear. Commiserating with the person or telling them you know exactly how they feel is not going to help. There is nothing you can say or do to suddenly get them to "snap out of it." All you can do is understand.

Before I give you a few pointers, let me be upfront about this and tell you that I am not a trained mental health professional. My only credentials are my experience with depression.  Here are a few things I've learned:

1. If you're going to understand, you got to know what depression is not - Depression is not just a case of being sad when things go wrong. Everything can be going very right, and yet, a person who  is depressed isn't able to enjoy the situation. It's not that we don't appreciate when things go right, it's just that we can't feel it. The depressed person doesn't enjoy their accomplishments.

2. Don't try and cheer them up- I don't care how funny you are, you may make a depressed person laugh, but that's no sign their depression is gone. Some people with depression are very good at hiding it. A great many people with depression have two faces. One they show to the public and one that really expresses how they feel. Let me put that another way. Many people with depression feel that they are living a lie.  We see people all the time who are successful and smiling, but they have a smile on their face that their eyes don't know about.

3. Listen - Man, I can't stress this one enough. If you can get a depressed person to talk abut their problem, make sure you spend more time listening than talking. If you really listen, you'll get a better idea of what depression really is.

4. Be honest - If you don't get it, say so. Encourage them to explain their feelings to you. they probably won't be able to at first, but, over time, they may open up to you.

5. Finally. tell them that help is out there and they don't have to live that way. Encourage them to get help. Shoot straight with them and tell them you understand that they are depressed, but there is real help out there than can abate or even get rid of their depression.

Just so there would be some real professional opinion in this article, I did some research and found an excellent article about other ways you can help your depressed person.

Here is some great advice from the Mayo Clinic

  • Talk to the person about what you've noticed and why you're concerned.

  • Explain that depression is a medical condition, not a personal flaw or weakness — and that it usually gets better with treatment.

  • Suggest seeking help from a professional — a medical doctor or a mental health provider, such as a licensed counselor or psychologist.

  • Offer to help prepare a list of questions to discuss in an initial appointment with a doctor or mental health provider.

  • Express your willingness to help by setting up appointments, going along to them and attending family therapy sessions.

I'd love to listen and help however I can. In the meantime, if you know you have a problem with depression, go get help now.Right this minute make a call and get some help. Depression can be controlled with certain medications.

Let me stress again that depression is not a sign of weakness. It's a real disease just like the flu or whooping cough. It might be helpful to know that, just like the flu and whooping cough, depression can be cured.

As before, I hope this helps. If you'd like to get in touch with me regarding your own depression or someone else's, Here is my email address: garyshannon@townsquaremedia.com

 

 

The picture in this post is a still from the movie "Mercy." I thought this picture somewhat sums up how you can feel when you are depressed. You're in a cage you can't escape. This great picture was taken by Hillary Gayle who was the still photographer for that movie.