People who are depressed are not always easy to help because often they are disinterested, lack energy and motivation, can be irritable, and may not see the point of doing anything. Some people are not used to talking much – especially about themselves, so getting a conversation started can be difficult.

Useful tips for helping someone who may be depressed:

  • Think about the best way to approach them – given what you know about their personality and temperament.
  • Discreetly let them know you have noticed a change in their behaviour. Indicate that you are seriously concerned.
  • Talk openly about depression and suggest they see a doctor, or speak to a health professional recommended by a doctor.
  • If appropriate helm them to make the appointment; perhaps consider going with them – and follow up after the appointment.
  • If they won’t listen to you, consider: who do they usually confide in, feel comfortable with, and/or trust? Maybe this person could make the approach and encourage them to seek assistance?
  • Provide them with information about depression; refer them to www.beyondblue.org.au.
  • Try to find ways to break their isolation:
    • Make an extra effort to stay in contact, preferably in person.
    • Encourage other close friends and family to do the same.
  • Encourage them to exercise, eat well and become involved in social activities.

It’s unhelpful to:

  • Pressure them to ‘snap out of it’, ‘get their act together’ or ‘cheer up’.
  • Stay away or avoid them.
  • Tell them they just need to stay busy or get out more.
  • Pressure them to party more, or to wipe out how they’re feeling with drugs and alcohol.
  • Assume the problem will go away.

Thoughts about self-harm and suicide are serious. Be as determined and resourceful as you can in finding a way to get a person having these thoughts to speak to a doctor or health professional.

Excerpt from Taking Care of Yourself and Your Family by John Ashfield, available for download from www.beyondblue.org.au. Editor Dr Ramesh Manocha.