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The National Institute of Mental Health reports that clinical depression is a serious national health problem, with an estimated 11 million Americans -- that's one in ten -- suffering some form of this disorder. Depression strikes women twice as often as men. And it's more than "the blues": A depressed person can't just "snap out of it" or will himself to feel better. However, with the proper treatment, 80 percent of sufferers can expect significant relief. Despite its prevalence, depression often goes unrecognized. Be on the lookout for:
It's essential to recognize how a loved one's depression affects you and your family (kids, too). Here's what you need to think about:
Acknowledge the toll on you and your family. Being around someone who is depressed can leave you angry, frustrated and worried that person you love is lost to you forever. Kids may sense something is wrong and believe that they are somehow responsible. Reassure them that the problem has nothing to do with them: "Daddy's feeling sad, but it's not your fault. He's seeing a doctor, and we hope he'll be better soon. These things take time to heal -- like a broken leg." Until a depressed parent is better, be sure that you remain a constant and comforting presence in your child's life. Kids may worry that you will divorce, though they may not actually say it. Assure them that the family will stick together.
It's not your job to "fix" the person who is depressed. Sure, you're concerned and will do anything to help, but another person's depression is not your fault and you can't shoulder the responsibility for making a partner better. The best you can do is encourage him to seek professional help. Remind him that he hasn't always been this way -- and that he can regain the pleasure he used to find in life's experiences. Be available as a contact person so that whoever is treating the depressed person knows who to call. Take any talk of suicide seriously.
Seek support for yourself. Turn to friends, a support group, a clergyperson or a mental health professional.
Here are four things you should avoid saying to someone you suspect is depressed.