What to Say
These are the positives. People like to hear them, and they tend to get much better results than the negative carping. That doesn't mean these words are candy-coated, however. Your objective is not to continue the status quo but to move things forward. Not all of these will apply. Choose the ones that seem appropriate for your situation. Your goal is to get the person you care about talking. Once you've begun the conversation, you can proceed to the next step, which is getting help.
There is no substitute for face-to-face interaction. Telephones and computers are wonderful, but when you're trying to get to the bottom of a problem, you need to be there physically. Once you've put yourself in the vicinity of the person you care about, there's nothing threatening about walking up, cup of coffee or tea in hand, and saying, “You seem down. What's wrong?” This is an invitation, not an accusation. If you get a response, then sit down and continue the dialogue. Don't rush the discussion. Anything at all, for right now, is good progress.
Do Your Homework
It's very possible you are recognizing the symptoms of depression in your loved one before he or she is even aware of the nature of the problem. In this case, you'll need to proceed carefully. The first thing to do is to become informed about depression. Do your homework and read up on the symptoms, the kinds of depression, possible causes, and treatments. This will give you a solid base for the conversations you will be having with your loved one. It will also prepare you to suggest a visit to the doctor. You'll be able to proceed with some confidence, instead of finding yourself in a position of reacting or arguing. You may find it easier to discuss changes in sleep patterns or weight gain or loss as logical reasons to see the doctor. You can mention your concerns to the doctor before the visit, so that depression finds itself on the checklist of conditions to evaluate.
Why should I skirt the issue, talking about sleep problems and weight issues?
You do this because these are concerns that may not be as threatening as depression. There's no stigma here, and so your loved one may be more willing to make that trip to the doctor.
Gather the Troops
You're going to need some help and support. You can't manage everything else you have to do in your life and take on the added responsibility of managing your loved one's depression as well. Something's bound to give, and it will probably be your peace of mind. Close friends and family can be of tremendous assistance, whether in lending a compassionate ear or lending their time to drive your loved one to the doctor's office or to therapy. It's a false pride that insists it doesn't need anyone else's help. Everyone needs this, from time to time — it's part of what makes us human. Accept the offers and don't be ashamed to ask when you need something. It's a certainty carved in stone that your friends and relatives will need your help at some point as well.