Depression is a complex word. Beyond its clinical definition, we have the stigmas, misconceptions, variations, and implications that come with it. Questions like “Why are you sad?” or “What happened?” seem natural, but as anyone with depression can attest, these are often far from answerable. 


The World Health Organization defines depression as “A common mental disorder, characterized by persistent sadness and a loss of interest in activities that you normally enjoy, accompanied by an inability to carry out daily activities, for at least two weeks.” Globally, more than 264 million people of all ages have been diagnosed with depression, but those numbers don’t reflect all that are impacted by this mental illness.


Parents, siblings, friends, significant others, and even coworkers of those with depression experience their own set of challenges when it comes to coping.  It’s not always easy to gauge what a person needs in a state of depression. It’s important to remember that the experience of depression, as well as treatment, varies from person to person, and what may be helpful for one person could have a completely different impact on another. The WHO suggests tackling the subject thoughtfully with the following tips:

  1. Make it clear that you want to help, listen without judgment, and offer support.

  2. Do what you can to increase your understanding and knowledge base regarding depression.

  3. Encourage your friend, family member or colleague to seek professional help when available. Offer to accompany them to appointments.

  4. If medication is prescribed, help them to take it as prescribed. Be patient, and encourage your affected friend or family member to be patient too–it usually takes a few weeks to feel better.

  5. Help them with everyday tasks and to have regular eating and sleeping patterns.

  6. Encourage regular exercise and social activities.

  7. If they are thinking about self-harm, or have already intentionally harmed themselves, do not leave them alone. Seek further help from the emergency services or a health-care professional. 

  8. Take care of yourself too. 



Depression can become all-consuming if you don’t tackle it with care, both for yourself and the person in need. Don’t be afraid to seek out help for YOU. You don’t have to tackle this alone – remember the good old airplane safety guideline: Be sure to put on your own oxygen mask first before helping others.

Written By: S. Mishkin

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