Looking Out For Each Other:  Talking To Neighbors, Friends and Family About Depression

Perhaps you’ve noticed that the neighbor you used to chat with has become more withdrawn, sullen or sad, and barely acknowledges you these days. Or maybe it’s a friend or a family member who seems depressed. What do you do, and what do you say?

For most of us, the first mistake we make is that we assume we’ve done something wrong. We review our behavior for evidence that we’ve caused a problem. Sometimes we become defensive and give back as good as we’re getting just to show that we’re unaffected by the bad vibes coming from the other person. And pretty soon that nice relationship we had with our neighbor or friend is permanently soured, or even broken beyond repair. If it’s a family member who’s behaving this way, the relationship may not break, but it can become strained, stressful and an enormous worry.

So what do you do if a neighbor, friend or family member starts behaving very differently, and is clearly unhappy? People who are suffering from psychological problems are often not easy to talk to: they can be withdrawn, unresponsive, irritable and negative. Here are some do’s and don’t to make the process easier.