How to Help a Loved One with Depression


Those who are familiar with pop psychology know the trend: People get more depressed and even suicidal around the holidays. Unfortunately, this pop-psych trend is based in reality. People do report increasing rates of depression around this time of year, and for a variety of reasons. For some, the short days, cold weather, and lack of sunlight can contribute to seasonal depression; for others, all those images of happy friends and family can be a reminder of what is wrong in their lives. At the time when the media is screaming at everyone to be happy for the holidays, those who are depressed only face constant reminders of the fact that they cannot be happy. One of the most common questions that people ask their Littleton couples therapist is how they can help. Here are some ways to help your loved one with depression this holiday season.

  1. Remember, depression is a mental health condition, not a mood or temporary state. Telling someone to “cheer up” or “smile” will not change their depression. It may make them act happier or look happier temporarily, but they are only putting on this happy mask to make you feel better. Inside, they likely feel worse for having to “fake it.” Instead, acknowledge and respect their feelings while offering to engage. Consider a statement such as: “I know the holidays are hard for you. If you need someone to talk to, or if you want to spend some time together to take your mind off of it, I’m here.”
  2. Keep inviting them, even if they don’t show. People get frustrated with depressed friends and family members because they often decline invitations or fail to show up. While this is hurtful to the person doing the inviting, most people who are depressed see these messages, wish they could go, but ultimately do not feel well, similar to how someone with the flu might respond. However, the invitation (and reminders!) shows them that you still want them to be there, even if they can’t make it. Besides, they might show up!
  3. Learn the warning signs for suicide. While they are different for different people, some common ones talking about feeling hopeless and helpless, feeling they have no purpose, feeling they are a burden to family and friends, sleeping all day or not at all, withdrawing from others, using substances more than usual, or becoming edgy or reckless. Most importantly, those who talk about wanting to die, wanting to kill themselves, or exploring means of suicide are at high risk. Never fear asking your friend or family member directly: “Are you thinking of killing yourself?” You will not “give them the idea,” you will give them the chance to seek help and sort through their feelings. If you feel that your loved one is in immediate danger of hurting themselves or others, you can always call 9-1-1 nationwide or call/text the Colorado Crisis Services at 844-493-8255 for help.
  4. Assist in getting help. While many people with depression are already in treatment or not interested, many people benefit from it but are unable to access it. If your loved one is depressed and you are worried, it is not inappropriate to ask if they need help finding, setting up an appointment with, or even getting to a skilled psychologist. Seeking counseling in Highlands Ranch or attending animal assisted therapy can bring major, positive changes to the life of someone with depression.

If you are feeling depressed, or if your loved one is depressed and would like a skilled couples and animal assisted therapist in Littleton or Highlands Ranch, consider giving Dr. Steve Lazarus a call at 303-267-2194. He has helped many people recover from mental health problems and live a full, healthy life.