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'Girlfriends For Life'

Vicki Iovine is best known for her witty and irreverent parenting series, the "Girlfriends Guides."

"Everything we need in this world, to get through life, we learn from our girlfriends who have been there and done that," Iovine tells The Early Show co-anchor Hannah Storm.

It was girlfriends who first helped her recognize her own depression, she said.

Not long ago, Iovine explains, she had to face taking care of her beloved brother, who was HIV positive and diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Iovine says, "It was really serious, and he moved into my house because he needed care. And I provided his hospice care for the year until he died. And it was the most horrible, agonizing, painful, paralyzing death that I've ever seen. So I started grieving long before he died. But then, I said to myself, 'Snap out of this, Vicky. Your whole family has been put on hold for a year because you've had to make Uncle Greg first, and you've got four kids and a husband and a career and everybody's kind of waiting there for you. Snap out of it.' I thought i did. And I got back into hyper-function. And I resumed my life and it looked as seamless as it could be until Christmas and I couldn't get out of bed."

She describes this time as very difficult because she had begun to accept sadness as a way of life. And she traded friends for isolation.

"I was lying in bed. Didn't tell people I was doing this. It didn't fit my image. I was very secretive about it, very guilty," Iovine says. That was until a persistent girlfriend sidestepped the author's attempts to isolate herself, showing up at her house, pajamas in hand, and crawled into her bed, saying, "I'm here". Ultimately, it was her girlfriends who intervened and made her get help.

Now Iovine is an advocate for depression awareness amongst women and their friends, and has launched a nationwide campaign, called Girlfriends for Life: Helping Each Other Stay Healthy. It is a program designed to raise awareness of the power girlfriends have in getting each other to recognize the signs and symptoms of depression.

The campaign is sponsored by Pfizer and the National Association of Nurse Practitioners in Women's Health.

If you are concerned about your girlfriend's well-being, here are Iovine's suggestions as to what to do:

  • Consult other girlfriends: Ask other friends something like, "Am I the only one who has noticed something?". Make sure you choose to consult good mutual friends.
  • Leave messages or emails: Try to entice friend by saying you need help and even guilt her into responding.
  • Make a surprise visit: Bring her favorite treat or coffee; take her out walking, it might get her talking. Walking also offers a change of venue, so take her to places that make her remember there are parts of life that she is missing.
  • Be there: Encourage her; side with her on whatever she decides to do; support her. Don't push an agenda.
  • Get other girlfriends on board: Don't spend your life doing it yourself; enlist the other friends and stay with her throughout the healing process.

Things not to do:

  • Don't give advice; give her permission to open up with you.
  • Don't judge.
  • Don't come out with the quick fixes.
  • Don't be a diagnostician.
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