While the basic steps are the same, you may need to approach the topic of depression differently depending on your relationship with the person. Here are some tips to help you through specific situations.
- A girlfriend: You may be more likely to note signs of depression than even your friends are. If you suspect a girlfriend is depressed, sit down with her, maybe over coffee, and express your concern delicately but confidently. Then give her a chance to open up and guide the direction of the conversation. If anything she says alarms you, take appropriate action and assure her that your actions are out of genuine fear for her safety and a desire to see her get better.
- Your husband: Chat in a comfortable setting, whether that’s your living room or over dinner (just the two of you). If he seems unwilling or hesitant to open up with you, ask gentle but direct questions. Some men aren’t used to talking about their feelings and may need a little guidance. Watch out for buzzwords that might put him on the defense. He may be more accepting of concrete examples of the behavior that has you worried than he is of the ambiguous emotional “big picture.” If he makes offhand comments that scare you, make sure he understands that you are taking them seriously, and may need to intervene.
- A child: Go out for ice cream and open up the lines of communication. Ask about school, friends, sports, anything that might steer the conversation in the direction of what’s bothering them. Your open and sincere interest in what he or she is doing builds a foundation of communication that will make the child more likely to talk to you not just about the bad stuff, but the good, as well. Dial up the gentleness and use child-friendly words like “sad” to describe why you’re concerned about him or her. If you have to call in a professional, stress to the child that treatment will make them feel better.
- A co-worker: Avoid a one-on-one cubicle intervention. Office walls tend to be thin (and have ears). Get your co-worker alone and preferably away from the office. Go out for lunch and find a quiet, out-of-the-way table where they’ll feel safe discussing their troubles without fear of being overheard or judged. Be careful not to overstep your bounds. Focus on concrete facts about how their potential depression has affected their work or their interaction with other members of the staff. Intervention is somewhat trickier, so consider taking the matter to a superior if it requires immediate and serious action.