How to Help a Depressed Loved One
Dr. Saltz says one of the biggest myths about depression is that you should never ask someone if they are contemplating suicide. "That's not true," says Dr. Saltz. "It's important to ask."
If you find out a friend or relative is thinking about suicide, take it very seriously—15 percent of "most people do tell someone. Sometimes it's a cry for help," Dr. Saltz says. "There's no way of knowing for sure, but if you have to go that distance to ask someone, it's not to be taken lightly."
In fact, asking someone about whether or not they are suicidal can provide some relief and open up a path to treatment, Dr. Saltz says.
If your loved one admits they are suicidal, keep asking questions.
If a friend or relative tells you they are thinking about killing themselves, Dr. Saltz says it's important to ask if they have a plan. "The suicide rate is 15 percent completions for depression," Dr. Saltz says. "Most often, they'll tell you the whole plan."
Offer to help.
When your loved one has admitted to considering suicide, Dr. Saltz says to take action immediately. There is a lower risk of suicide if they don't have an easily accessible method, so remove all potentially dangerous items. Then, find them a mental health professional immediately or drive them to the emergency room for a one-on-one intervention.
If you have a loved one who is not severely depressed but still struggling, Dr. Saltz says you should urge them to seek treatment. Say that you are aware that there are a number of treatments and that they don't have to feel bad all the time. "Sometimes they need a crowbar. If you can just offer to make a call for them or drive them to an appointment, it can mean the difference between getting help and not getting help," Dr. Saltz says.
Knowledge is power, and the more you know, the more you can help someone you love. Here are some resources that can help you save a life:
- If you or someone you know is suicidal, call 800-SUICIDE
- Learn more about depression and other mental health issues at the National Institute of Mental Health's website, www.nimh.nih.gov
- Depression information from The Mayo Clinic can be found at www.mayoclinic.com/health/depression/DS00175
- Are you depressed? Take this self-assessment
- Learn about the symptoms of depression
- How women and men handle depression differently
- How to talk to someone who is depressed
- Find out more about depression and connect with others