Book Review: ‘Talking to Depression: Simple Ways to Connect When Someone in Your Life is Depressed’

“We’ve come to feel that depression should be left to the professionals,” writes Claudia J. Strauss in her preface to Talking Depression: Simple ways to Connect When Someone in Your Life is Depressed. She declares this a tragedy, of sorts, noting that professionals aren’t there in the morning to help a depressed person get going for the day, or at night, when depression’s grip is often most tight. Severe depression is a medical problem, but Strauss assures her readers they don’t need to be a clinician to make a difference. Strauss writes this guide from personal experience, hoping to help others help their loved ones who suffer what she calls “The Big D,” clinical depression.

Understanding depression through the eyes of a sufferer

Talking to Depression begins with an overview of the disorder written in terms easily understood by a layperson. Strauss distinguishes between temporary feelings of sadness, the “little d,” and clinical depression, which is pervasive and debilitating. Her straight forward prose gives insight into what it feels like to suffer depression to better inform friends and family who want to help, but aren’t sure what their loved one is going through.

Words and actions: You are not helpless

It is frustrating to watch someone you love seem to lose all zest for life, and simple words of advice such as “snap out of it” will not help; these words may even harm the situation by widening the gap between the sufferers and those who care for them. She suggests the best ways to talk to someone suffering depression, and discusses what threads of conversation should be avoided. Anyone who has a depressed person in their lives will find situations described in the book familiar.

Beyond words, Strauss describes actions a caregiver can take to help ease the suffering of their loved one. Simply being there, ready to listen, is perhaps one of the best ways you can help. You are not expected to provide a cure, but your role as a supporter is critical.

What you need to know

She devotes an entire chapter to suicide, listing the warning signs, and she offers suggestions on dealing with depression in children and teenagers. She concludes the book with advice for caregivers. It can be draining caring for someone suffering depression, and a caregiver must first care for him or herself to be of any use.

If you are looking for a comprehensive book on depression, its symptoms and treatments, this is not the book you want. Talking Depression is designed to assist those who want to help as a complement to professional care. This book may also be useful to ones suffering depression. It may help find the words to describe their own moods, thoughts and feelings and help them better vocalize what they need from their loved ones.