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Youth Summit: How to Help a Friend

Useful information to help.

Excerpts from: National Institutes of Mental Health

www.nih.gov/publicat/depressionmenu.cfm

"Depression is more than the blues or the blahs; it is more than the normal, everyday ups and downs. … When that "down" mood, along with other symptoms, lasts for more than a couple of weeks, the condition may be clinical depression. It can change behavior, physical health and appearance, academic performance, social activity and the ability to handle everyday decisions and pressures.

The first step toward defeating depression is to define it.

Do they express feelings of:

* Sadness or "emptiness"?

* Hopelessness, pessimism, or guilt?

* Helplessness or worthlessness?

Do they seem:

* Unable to make decisions?

* Unable to concentrate and remember?

* To have lost interest or pleasure in ordinary activities — like sports or band or talking on the phone?

* To have more problems with school and family?

Do they complain of:

* Loss of energy and drive — so they seem "slowed down"?

* Trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or getting up?

* Appetite problems; are they losing or gaining weight?

* Headaches, stomach aches, or backaches?

* Chronic aches and pains in joints and muscles?

Has their behavior changed suddenly so that:

* They are restless or more irritable?

* They want to be alone most of the time?

* They’ve started cutting classes or dropped hobbies and activities?

* You think they may be drinking heavily or taking drugs?

Have they talked about

* Death?

* Suicide — or have they attempted suicide?

Find Someone Who Can Help

Don’t assume that someone else is taking care of the problem. Negative thinking, inappropriate behavior or physical changes need to be reversed as quickly as possible. Not only does treatment lessen the severity of depression, treatment also may reduce the length of time (duration) a friend is depressed and may prevent additional bouts of depression.

If a friend shows many symptoms of depression, you can listen and encourage him or her to ask a parent or teacher about treatments. If your friend doesn’t seek help quickly, talk to an adult you trust and respect — especially if your friend mentions death or suicide.

There are many places in the community where people with depressive disorders can be diagnosed and treated. Help is available from family doctors, mental health specialists in community mental health centers or private clinics, and from other health professionals.