Friday, May 8, 2009

What Can I Do

I am afraid that one of the guys in lab is getting depressed. He usually takes impeccable care of himself - wears designer jeans, is very careful about his cologne (he smells awesome, I have to say...). But he's worn workout pants for the past three weeks, sweatshirts every day. He hasn't gone to the gym in a long time. I've tried to ask about school, research, life in general. How is the girlfriend, etc. Not talking, although he's usually pretty open with me.

He's in my group project for one of my classes, and so tonight I was about to leave at 7:30ish when I saw he was still at his desk, working away at our project. I wandered over to chit chat about the project. My part is almost done, and he was working on his part. I couldn't really help with the analysis (only one person per MatLab per computer, you know) but it just seemed like he could use the company.

So it was one of those gut decisions. I hadn't had dinner, my brain was tired at the end of the day, and I had studying I needed to do - but I sat down my bookbag and stayed. I ended up chattering away for a good 45 minutes while he worked. I said nothing of substance, I felt a bit foolish. But he seemed calmer and more focused as he worked with me in the background. He said, "I'm so glad you're sitting here - it's soothing just to have you talk to me."

I hope I helped. I'm keeping my eye on him. I don't really know what to do beyond offering some human company if that's what he needs. What's the protocol here?


  1. I would keep an eye on him- if hanging around him helped him a little, perhaps you could spend more time doing that- and maybe the stuff that's bugging him will surface (Maybe get a small group dinner party stuff going?). I wouldn't suggest probing him to find out directly.

  2. Although I don't know if he's depressive, I second Eugenie's comment. This winter, I crashed big time and since then, I've had the help of many peoples and off the 5 people helping me the most is my boss who speak a lot of story about good life lessons, this help me a lot even if they are not related to me.

  3. I'm not sure if I agree with Eugenie. I think it might be a good idea to ask up front. Maybe start with what's up with the wardrobe lately. Maybe you can be funny about it? I can think of lots of jokes about wearing the same sweatpants for too long...

    I've been around too many suicides to be polite anymore. If someone is exhibiting major personality changes, waiting might be a bad policy.

    You're a good person to notice and try to help. If he's really not responding, you might have to go to someone else to intervene. Most schools have hotlines/helplines for exactly this kind of thing. Peer mentors, etc. can usually advise on how to proceed.

  4. Now that I think about it, Ms. PhD may be right and I have to account (regarding my previous post) that I have no experience with depressive or suicidal people.

    Did you, Miss Outlier, happened to see the guy again?

  5. I appreciate comments from all kinds of people, not to worry!

    I am pleased to report that he seems to be doing better. Whatever was bugging him must have eased up. Either that, or life is just better for any student after the semester has ended...

    Even saw him in jeans for a couple days.

  6. Thanks you for the report and glad he's doing okay.