Help Yourself, Help a Friend - Men and Depression

How to Help Yourself

When persistent, 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 are often magnified by depression, not accurately reflecting actual circumstances. Rest assured that negative thinking fades as treatment begins to take effect. In the meantime:

  •  Work out, go to a movie, a ballgame, or 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.
  •  Spend time with other people and talk to someone about what you are experiencing; it is usually better than being alone and secretive.
  •  Participate in activities that may make you feel better.
  •  Expect your mood to improve gradually, not immediately. Feeling better takes time.
  •  Postpone important decisions. Before deciding to make a significant transition — change major, drop out of college, 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, positive thinking will replace the negative thinking as your depression responds to treatment.
  •  Let your family and friends support you.

How to Help a Friend

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:

  • Be sensitive — give feedback in a caring way.
  • People who are depressed would like others to “understand” what they are experiencing, especially how overwhelmingly powerful their depressed experience is.
  • Be natural, Be yourself
  • Provide support that feels comfortable to you. False or self-centered support rarely works and can make the situation worse.
  • Looking after your own needs
  • Being around someone who is depressed can be quite emotionally draining. If you find yourself getting tired, frustrated, or angry, don’t judge yourself harshly. Make sure you get the breaks and support you need.
  • Most importantly, educate yourself!
  • Find out more about depression
  • Be able to tell fact from fiction
  • Know the symptoms
  • Find someone who can help

What is not helpful:

  • Telling or trying to force someone to “Snap out of it!”
  • Depressed people are very vulnerable to words or actions that can be construed as critical, blaming, or punishing. Criticism, blame, or punishment increase the feelings of low self-worth which is a fundamental, underlying cause of depression.
  • Trying to draw someone out of depression by persuasion, contrived cheerfulness or funny jokes
  • Repeated failed attempts to “bring someone out of depression” can make their (and your) feelings of helplessness much worse.
  • Correcting destructive, illogical, pessimistic viewpoints
  • It is instinctive to try to “correct” negative outpourings from depressed people; however, depression is driven by emotional and chemical energies and requires Cognitive Therapy techniques and sometimes medication to correct.