Coping with depression isn’t easy, but if you, a family member or a friend is struggling, there is help. NAMI is there to provide support and resources for you and your family.
Leading a balanced lifestyle can help you manage symptoms of depression. Here are some suggestions from people who have lived experience with depression:
Learn all you can. Learn about the many treatment options available. Connect with other people experiencing depression in support groups or meetings. Attend local conferences and conventions. Build a personal library of useful websites and helpful books.
Recognize early symptoms. Identify possible warning signs and triggers that may aggravate your depression symptoms. With this knowledge, you can recognize an emerging episode and get the help you need as soon as possible. Don’t be afraid to ask your friends and family for help—they can help you monitor your symptoms and behavior.
Partner with your health care providers. Give your health care provider all the information he or she needs to help you recover—including any reactions to medications, your symptoms or any triggers you notice. Develop trust and communicate openly.
Know what to do in a crisis. Be familiar with your community’s crisis hotline or emergency walk-in center. Know how to contact them and keep the information handy.
Find emotional support from others who experience depression. Share your story, thoughts, fears and questions with other people who have the same condition. Connect through online message boards or peer-education programs like NAMI Peer-to-Peer or support groups like NAMI Connection.
Avoid drugs and alcohol. These substances can disturb emotional balance and interact with medications. You may think using alcohol or drugs will help you feel better, but using them can hinder your recovery or make symptoms worse.
Get physically healthy. Eat well and exercise. To relieve stress, try activities like meditation, yoga or Tai Chi.
Helping a Family Member or Friend
When someone you love and care about experiences the symptoms of mental illness, you face unique challenges yourself, including complex family dynamics, social isolation and often unpredictable behavior. Getting support for yourself is essential for you to be able to be helpful for the person you care about.
Learn more about your loved one’s condition. Learning about the condition your loved one experiences will help you better understand and support them. Read personal accounts of lived experience, full of tips and advice on the NAMI Blog:
Recognize early symptoms. Depression often has warning signs, such as a low mood, feeling fatigued or having trouble sleeping. Discuss your friend or family member’s past episodes with them to help them improve their ability to recognize the signs early.
Communicate. Speak honestly and kindly. Don’t scold or blame people with depression or urge them to “try harder” to “just be happy.” Instead, make specific offers of help and follow through with those offers. Tell the person you care about them. Ask them how they feel and truly listen.
React calmly and rationally. Even if your family member or friend is in a crisis, it’s important to remain calm. Listen to their concerns and make them feel understood—then take the next step toward getting help.
Find emotional support from others. Share your thoughts, fears and questions with other people who have loved ones with similar conditions. Connect with others through online message boards or NAMI peer-education programs.
Reviewed August 2017