Answers to Major Depression (2): Depression and Interpersonal Relationships – “Heart-to-Heart: Loving Community” Series


Dr. Agnes Ip, PhD., LMFT

People with depression often have fear and do not like to communicate with the outside world. What should their family members or friends do?

Faced with the special situation of depression, the roles of family members, friends, neighbors, colleagues, and the community are very crucial. It is recommended to encourage and care for those who suffer from depression with an accepting and considerate heart, and be a companion to reach out to the outside world together. If you treat them differently, disrespect or always check on them, it will make them feel disgusted and become more withdrawn.

It is important to give the people with depression enough space, encouraging them to face the illness, take good care of themselves, and do whatever they can and want to do. On one hand, we should treat these patients as normal people; but at the same time, we also need to understand that they are in a difficult and painful stage, so talk to them with gentleness, sincerity, respect, and equality, and thus gradually resolve the tension in the relationship. Listen patiently. Don’t embellish what they say casually, and don’t preach. When a person with depression is willing to share, it is a golden opportunity for us to understand what is heavy in his heart. The key point of talking with someone who suffers from depression is not to teach. It is not necessary to agree with them, but simply express empathy and give them the opportunity to express and talk. Words of teaching and persuasion, such as “don’t worry” or “don’t think too much”, will make them feel they are not being understood and reluctant to continue communicating.

If someone you know with depression has strange behaviors, do not over monitor, discuss or take care of them excessively, or look at them with pitiful or terrified eyes, which will make them lose confidence in themselves even more. It is recommended to get along with them in a quiet, relaxed, and ordinary manner, and encourage them to establish a normal life, and participate in regular activities. We can be with them, and encourage them to seek medical treatment when needed.

The treatment methods for the onset period and the recovery period are a bit different. During the onset period, you can encourage those with depression to do more exercises, calm down their emotions, and let them slowly come out of the trough; whereas during the recovery period, you need to offer more companionship, encouragement and help. Let them participate in as many activities that they like as possible, do the appropriate work, and give them encouragement. Don’t be too picky, but let them do their work step by step, and gradually improve work efficiency.

If I suffer from depression, should I tell my family and people around me?

Whether you choose to share or not has a lot to do with the attitude of your family. If family members do not understand and are afraid of mental patients, it is best to share your condition with a friend who can understand you, and then communicate with your family through a doctor who can help them understand what depression is and how to support and help. If the attitude of your family is supportive and open, it should be shared with them as soon as possible, so that your family can understand and support, and even accompany you to receive treatment. If people around you know and accept your depression, you can open yourself up, share your difficulties and struggles, and let them understand you better. Try to explain your situation to your boss at work, and hopefully they can support and accommodate your needs. But sometimes we may not be able to get the other party’s understanding or help. If so, we can just simply explain our current limitations.

In an ideal situation, it is always best to be able to share. If you can feel more acceptance and support from others, it will definitely have a positive impact on your road to recovery.

*The content of this article was adapted from Dr. Agnes Ip’s interview with “Hear and See” organization.

Presence Hong Kong Limited is a non-profit organization that has supported Christian and family values since 2012. We aim to raise up a new generation for the cultural mission — equip individuals and families to bridge the cultural and generational gaps and to live a unique life with wisdom. 

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Interested in learning more about mental health?

How to Cope With Teenage Depression, Suicidal Thoughts & Self Harm (Eng) MP4

This seminar provides very comprehensive information to parents with teenage children concerning teenage mental well-being. In the video, Dr. Agnes:

·         Explains the symptoms, possible causes, and risk factors of depression and self-injury, as well as the red flags to look out for.

·         Advises the possible strategies to increase resilience and prevent a relapse of depression.

·         Introduces the different types of psychotherapy treatment programs, and what the teens can learn through therapy.

·         Gives practical guidance to the parents regarding possible actions they can take, and the skills to communicate with their teens so as to prevent suicide happens to them.


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