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For Individuals | For Friends and Family of Sufferers

For Individuals (Download Word Doc | Download Text File)  
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If depression significantly impacts everyday functioning, get help. Therapy can help you deal with issues that aggravate or provoke your depression. Medication, if you need it, can make it possible to do the therapy work.

Checkmark If you have thoughts of suicide, SEEK HELP without delay. If you're asking why bother, stop asking and GET HELP NOW.
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Get some exercise. Motivating yourself to exercise or even just finding the energy to exercise may feel difficult or impossible. Push yourself to do something, even if just for a minute or two to start. Exercise works directly by increasing endorphin levels, and may help you feel better about yourself. [Coming soon: a page on the benefits of exercise. There are too many to list here.]

Checkmark ConnectionFight isolation. Call friends, get out of the house, go window-shopping, or visit friends and relatives. Stay connected with loved ones.
Checkmark Consider family therapy--depression affects more than just the depressed individual. Depression can also be associated with or reinforced in relationships.
Checkmark Go outside for sunlight [Don't forget sunscreen] and fresh air . It really might make a difference.
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If you are not working, consider a volunteer job in an area that interests you [or at least one that interested you before the depression]. Volunteering can help in several ways. You may feel good about what you're doing. In a volunteer position, you may feel less constrained to do things beyond your capabilities, you can experiment more comfortably and set hours according to your needs. You might feel more able to take risks than if you were in a paying job. You can gradually get yourself more active without too much pressure, and you'll be around people.

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Try writing down what and how you're feeling and thinking. Writing often provides an effective release, an outlet for the pain. Additionally, keep a journal of your moods. Look for particular events, activities or people that make you feel better or worse.

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Find an activity like drawing, photography, painting, or dance that helps you express what's inside. Painting
Checkmark Make sure you've had a complete physical to eliminate medical conditions that may be causing or intensifying your depression.
Checkmark Pay attention to your thinking--what you tell yourself about yourself and your situation. Keep reminding yourself that even though this feels like it will last forever, it won't.
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If you can't believe in a future, remind yourself that your thinking is impaired by depression. If you don't see a positive future right now, trust your doctors and therapists to hold that hopeful vision for you. Though you're not able to see good things now, they really are out there. Let supportive people hold your faith and hope for you.

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Depression is real. This is not something you're making up or faking. It's not a weakness of character. Depression can be serious, even deadly. Remember to take it seriously and not to minimize it. Remind others to do the same.

Checkmark Join a support group.
Checkmark Learn more positive ways of thinking. Actively practice these skills. See Resources.
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Try daily affirmations, either verbal or written even if  it sounds silly. Eventually, as you replace negative self-descriptions with positive ones, your brain will learn to accept them.

Checkmark You don't have to feel ashamed of or hide your depression. You deserve to feel OK. Take care of yourself. Be gentle with yourself.
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Be easy on yourself. Being hard on yourself perpetuates the depression, giving you more reasons to feel bad about yourself. Don't be depressed about being depressed. And remember, depression often lingers, and only gradually tends to fade away.

Checkmark Make a list of accomplishments, even the little ones. Keep it where you can see it.
Checkmark You need to hear good things about yourself. Ask your friends to remind you of your strengths and successes.
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Maintain a list of everything you do throughout the day. For example, "I got up this morning, I ate breakfast, I took a shower, I watched TV, I answered the phone, I made dinner," or perhaps just "I got out of bed once today." Keep a notepad with you if necessary. You'll find that you've achieved more than you thought.

Checkmark Make a list of people and groups, including local hotlines, you can contact when you need help. Keep this list near all your phones.
Checkmark Make a list of things you can do when you're feeling really unhappy, such as taking a bath, going for a walk, hugging a teddy bear, calling a friend, or painting furniture.
Checkmark Try changing your environment--rearrange your furniture, invite bright colors and light into your surroundings.
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Get a pet to care for and love, and feel loved in return. A pet may not give you a reason to live, but it may help you think twice about dying. Pets offer solace and comfort, an unconditional acceptance that humans sometimes can't.

Checkmark Don't self-medicate. Alcohol, drugs, or other addictive behaviors can increase the depression and will add another depressing problem to your difficulties.
Note If you have strategies which helped you cope with and survive depression, please share them with me. While I may not be able to list them all, I'll try to update this page with as many coping strategies as I can.

Comments, questions, or suggestions?  Please, email me.

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Jonathan P. Levine, CSW
2300 West Ridge Rd.
Rochester, NY  14626
(585) 225-0330
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Updated on 06/24/2002
2002, Jonathan P. Levine, CSW