As with living with an addict, those who are closest to a loved one experiencing a form of depression often suffer at least as much as the depressed, suicidal or manic person.
Here are some coping mechanisms:
Encourage him or her to get treatment and stay with it. If necessary, remind the person of appointments and about taking medications on schedule. If you suspect your loved one is suicidal, immediately call his or her therapist or doctor. If neither is available, call a local crisis center or emergency room.
Take care of yourself. You may want to seek individual therapy or join a support group. Mental health organizations sponsor support groups where you can find information about the illness and the latest treatments.
Offer emotional support in the form of patience and love and hope. Ask questions and carefully listen to the answers. Don’t brush off or judge the other person’s feelings. Suggest activities you can share. Remember that healing takes time and that it’s a disease that’s making your loved one difficult. Don’t blame him or her, any more than you would if it were physical pain making the person behave differently.
Try to prevent reckless acts during manic episodes, when judgment is impaired. Limit access to cars, credit cards and bank accounts. Learn to recognize situations that may trigger a manic episode.
Disruption of sleep patterns can trigger an episode, so support your loved one in keeping a regular sleep schedule. Similarly, regular schedules for eating, exercising and socializing may also be a preventive measure.
from Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH), Press Release March 13, 2012