New Depression Medication : Community Service

by Mark Sichel, LCSW

One of the best tools for getting out of your own way and overcoming mild depression is to provide service to others. People suffering from the blues have a choice: 1) Wallow in self-pity or 2) Go out there and help another human being.

Which choice would you like to make? There are countless people less fortunate than us who can benefit from our help, especially during the holiday season. What might surprise you, is that by choosing to help others, you are also helping yourself.

Over the years, I have worked with people who have experienced many personal setbacks and tragedies. Sadly, these individuals were suffering from more than a case of the holiday blues. And yet, these very same people were able to improve their outlook and begin to manage their depression by taking active measures to make themselves feel better. A case of the holiday blues can be tackled the same way: make the choice to go out there and offer something back to the world.

It's amazing that the selfless act of volunteering reaps so many rewards. Community service can enable you to achieve a sense of control, to gain positive attention, to feel gratitude for what you have, and to boost your self-esteem. Those that decide to join their community and volunteer, rather than isolate themselves by indulging in self-pity, receive a priceless benefit: a change in outlook that incurs no expense and generates a wealth of inner rewards.

Once many years ago, as the holiday season approached, my own life was in a transitional phase and I was struggling with depression. As Thanksgiving moved closer, I realized that I had no place to go for the holiday celebration. Feeling like there's no place to go during the holidays is a primary culprit in causing holiday blues.

As I became increasingly depressed, I realized that I was alone, sad, and wallowing in self-pity. Despite my inner turmoil, I knew I had to stop myself from sinking deeper into loneliness. So, not even sure if I believed it would work or not, I decided to take action.

That same night, I called Volunteers of America and arranged to cook and serve Thanksgiving dinner in a homeless shelter. It turned out to be a wonderful holiday; I met great people, both fellow volunteers and also residents of the shelter. I was active, occupied, and too busy to think about myself and my problems. I felt highly appreciated by those around me. I discovered that for me, service to others was an exciting and heart-warming therapy.

© Mark Sichel, LCSW

Mark Sichel, LCSW is a psychotherapist in private practice in New York City and a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. Mark is the author of Healing from Family Rifts, a guide to mending even the most difficult family estrangements, and how to reconcile with yourself if your family rift cannot be healed. Visit the author's web site at