U-M Counseling and Psychological Services

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How to help yourself

Depressive disorders can be exhausting, making one feel worthless, helpless, and hopeless. It is important to realize that intense negative feelings are part of and often magnified by depression and do not accurately reflect actual circumstances. Making the decision to seek treatment is half the battle. Rest assured that negative thinking fades as treatment begins to take effect.

In the meantime:

  • Engage in mild exercise. Go to a movie or a ballgame. Participate in religious, social, or other activities.
  • Set realistic goals and assume a reasonable amount of responsibility.
  • Break large tasks into small ones, set some priorities, and do what you can as you can.
  • Try to be with other people and to confide in someone; it is usually better than being alone and secretive.
  • Participate in activities that may make you feel better, things that you used to do for fun, even if it doesn’t seem like fun now..
  • Expect your mood to improve gradually, not immediately. Feeling better takes time. Often during treatment of depression, sleep and appetite will begin to improve before depressed mood lifts.
  • Postpone important decisions. Before deciding to make a significant transition — change jobs, get married or divorced — discuss it with others who know you well and have a more objective view of your situation.
  • Do not expect to “snap out of” a depression. But do expect to feel a little better day by day.
  • Remember, more realistic thinking will replace the negative thinking as your depression responds to treatment.
  • Let your family and friends help you.

How to help a friend

While college can be stressful and everyone will at some moment feel “down and discouraged,” when a friend or family member's activity and outlook on life stays “down” for weeks and begins to affect your relationship, they might be suffering from depression. Know that you can help.


What is helpful...

  • Being sensitive — noticing what effect your words and actions have on the person.
  • Be natural, be yourself.
  • Looking after your own needs.
  • Most importantly, educate yourself!

What is not helpful...

  • Telling or forcing someone to “Snap out of it!”.
  • Trying to draw someone out of depression by persuasion, contrived cheerfulness or funny jokes.
  • Correcting destructive, illogical, pessimistic viewpoints.