Knowing how to help a family member who is suffering from depression can be really difficult. Although you may really want to help, knowing the right words to say, or even what not to say can be a real problem. If you say the wrong thing, it may send them even more deeply into the spiral of depression. Saying nothing and doing nothing seems like the wrong thing to do, too. If you suspect that a loved one is suffering from depression, you need to identify it if you can. If your loved one seems not to enjoy his/her usual activities, and seems unusually sad or withdrawn, it is likely that this person has depression. Here are some things that you can do to help a family member or other loved one who is suffering from depression, and a few things that you should not say or do.
The first and foremost thing that you have to remember is that if it is truly depression, your loved one cannot just snap out of it, or get over it. Although these things have been said so much that it has become cliche, it cannot be emphasized enough that depression is not something you just get over. It takes counseling, sometimes medication, and a lot of love and support from those who care the most. Therefore, it is important not to tell your loved one to just get over it, or even that he/she will eventually get over it. At this point in time, your family member does not know this, and may feel like he/she may never get over it.
It is important to let your family member know that you are there for them, whether it is as a shoulder to cry on, or just there to listen when you are needed. Be as supportive as you can, but do not offer platitudes that mean little or nothing. Address any concerns that your loved one may have, and give the concerns credibility. Allow your loved one to express himself/herself without passing judgement or making him/her feel inferior in any way. If the problems are beyond your scope of understanding or ability to help, this is a good time to recommend counseling. A counselor can offer help that you cannot, including referring your loved one to a psychiatrist for medication if necessary. While not all depression requires medication, sometimes it does, if only for a short time.