^Wow, I feel ya, man. I have had my ups and downs too, but like you I don't think I have ever had a real clinical depression. I have, however, done my very, very best to help some people who did, and ultimately I couldn't do much. It was a huge disappointment both to me and the sufferer every time. Anti-depressants help, they really do, if the person finds the right combination, and then if they manage to switch when an SSRI stops working, for example. But, though there are some people who respond very well and only need them short-term, for others they seem to just make things barely bearable, or maybe give them that little bit of energy to invest in something that will help more thoroughly and permanently, like counseling.
Three things come to mind that I want to share with you. None of them are solutions; they're just things that I have found compelling in my great deal of thinking about this issue:
1. People who jump and survive ofter report mid-air regret
2. One of the best explanations of what it feels like to be chemically, clinically depressed, with a really lovely ending, from Hyperbole and a Half
. That whole blog is great. Some of her childhood stories are hysterically funny, and yet you get glimpses of early signs of her future mental struggles.
3. Radical acceptance
is very interesting. In terms of suicidal thoughts, if there is something so terrible about life or yourself that you'd rather die than accept it, perhaps it would be helpful if you could accept it. Easier said than done, but there are some resources for cognitive-behavioral therapy structured around this idea.
Caring about and for a depressed person is extremely painful, so radical acceptance can be helpful for the friend or family member as well. Once you accept the way things are, you can look to see whether there is anything that can be changed actively, and you can accept passive waiting for things to evolve if there is not.
Thanks for bringing this up. Take good care of yourself.