Major depressive disorder affects almost 15 million adults in the United States age 18 and older in a given year. The symptoms of depression vary dramatically, but often include loss of interest, feeling hopeless, problems sleeping, feeling weak or fatigued, feeling worthless, and unexplained physical problems. Watching your son struggle with depression can be difficult. There are, however, things you can do to help.

Educate yourself. Often people who are depressed do not recognize that they are depressed. By understanding the symptoms of depression, you are better equipped to recognize the depression. Moreover, if you decide to sit down and talk with your son about his depression, you are better equipped to discuss and understand the symptoms he is experiencing.

Encourage treatment. Depression can lead to social problems, problems at work, and even suicide. Thus, it is critical that you encourage your son to seek treatment before the problem gets worse. Encouraging treatment can be difficult because your son may feel embarrassed or ashamed. To combat these feelings, the Mayo Clinic recommends that you stress that depression is a medical condition. Moreover, it is a medical condition that can be treated successfully. If your son is nervous about seeking treatment, offer to attend the initial appointments with him. Additionally, make clear your willingness to attend family therapy. If your son is suicidal, intervene by contacting a doctor or emergency medical service, despite his wishes.

Help your son recognize the good things in life. According to Dr. Steve Bressert, it is beneficial to help your son slowly rediscover the joys of life. This can be done by serving as a diversion (e.g., taking your son hiking), and encouraging him to participate in activities that once gave him pleasure. Dr. Bressert notes that while you want to push your son, you do not want to push him to do too much too quickly.

Help to create a low stress environment. You can help reduce the symptoms of depression by ensuring that your son engages in a regular routine and otherwise minimizes stress. This includes following a regular schedule for meals and sleep. You may also help your son stay organized so that he does not experience the stress associated with clutter and chaos. This includes helping him with bills, laundry, grocery shopping, and home maintenance.