Counseling Center- Self Help
Do you know someone who appears depressed? (TOP)
Sometimes we worry about someone when that person doesn't seem to be willing to acknowledge a problem. An intervention is a way to help that individual. It is an active confrontation of specific behaviors by others and is designed to increase awareness of problem behaviors, to prevent problems from becoming worse, and to promote referral for further assessment and possible treatment. An intervention takes advantage of a unique opportunity to really make a difference to help someone you care about.
Some behaviors which may require an intervention are those which are a part of what is called depression. We all feel sad, "down in the dumps" or have "the blues" once in awhile. This feeling usually passes fairly quickly and may be relieved by a good night's sleep, talking to a friend, or taking a long walk. However, some people may experience a pattern of depressed feelings, thoughts, and behaviors which are more intense and last longer. There are a number of signs and symptoms which suggest moderate or severe depression. Although depressed individuals will usually admit to their feelings and related problems if asked, they typically will keep to themselves and not seek help. This social withdrawal and the potential seriousness of the problem requires an intervention on the part of others. It is difficult for people who are depressed to help themselves, but moderate and severe depression can be treated and relieved with professional help.
Symptoms of depression (TOP)
You may observe behaviors in a depressed person which are a change from that individual's usual style. There may be withdrawal from people and situations or increased dependency on others. Loss of weight, sleeping too much or too little, and substance abuse are common. Emotional features include sadness, hopelessness, helplessness, guilt, anxiety, irritability, and loneliness. Thoughts are negative with self-criticism, indecisiveness, pessimism for the future, and difficulty concentrating. There may be physical complaints. Sometimes there is a precipitating factor involving a loss: serious illness, loss of a loved one, loss of job, academic failure. Depressed persons may also consider suicide.
How to help someone who appears depressed (TOP)
You can seek out the depressed individual, express your concern, and encourage that person to seek professional help. Let the person know that depression can be relieved with professional assistance. Follow the intervention process to accomplish this goal.
The intervention process (TOP)
- examine your own values and attitudes about the problem and about the individual
- become informed about the problem
- develop the skills and a plan to communicate your concern -should you be the person to intervene? -who else should be involved? -express your caring and concern -be specific in your examples of problem behaviors -do not "label" or criticize -assess suicidal risk (see below)
- learn about appropriate referral sources and help the individual to make and keep an appointment; provide support during the treatment
- do not be discouraged if the intervention doesn't work; however, serious depression or suicidal risk requires action (see below)
- get help for yourself if you are negatively affected by your relationship with the person who has the problem
Suicide assessment (TOP)
Anyone who appears depressed should be asked directly and actively if there are thoughts and plans of suicide. Ask "Are you thinking of killing yourself?" It is a myth that talking about suicide will encourage the person to do it. In fact, if you talk about it you may reduce the risk of suicide. The risk of suicide becomes higher the more specific and available and lethal the plan. A plan for a specific time, place, and method is high risk. Risk is higher if the person has the means available or easily accessible. Risk is higher if the method is more dangerous, rapid-acting, or irreversible. Risk is high if consciousness is clouded by alcohol or other drugs. Those who have made previous suicide attempts are at higher risk. Ask specific questions to bet this information.
Suicide intervention & prevention (TOP)
Many suicides can be prevented. Most people do not want to die but want some relief from pain and problems which seem to have no solution. To intervene you must acknowledge the pain and also instill hope that the problem can be solved. If you believe that a person should be allowed to suicide, find someone else to intervene. Talk about suicide must be taken seriously, even if you think a person is trying to "get attention." The individual may very well need attention and be asking for help. Always get help from others with the intervention and do not leave the person alone if you have assessed that the person may suicide. Serious suicidal risk requires action on your part and a forced hospitalization may be the immediate solution. Call the police or your local Crisis Intervention Center. Finally, find someone to talk to about your feelings. Dealing with a suicidal person is a difficult emotional experience.
(Prepared by: Elizabeth Yarris, Ph.D., BGSU Counseling Center and Ross J. Rapaport, Ph.D., Central Michigan University Counseling Center)
To learn more about suicide and depression please use this Ulifeline link .