How To Help Someone With Depression
Steven Gans, MD is board-certified in psychiatry and is an active supervisor, teacher, and mentor at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Verywell / Bailey Mariner
If you or a loved one are struggling with depression, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.
For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.
If someone you love has depression, you may wonder how you can help. You may even experience a range of difficult feelings of your own, such as worry, disappointment, and anger.
Continue To Offer Support
If your friend has thoughts of suicide but no plan or immediate risk, they may feel a little better after sharing their distress.
This doesnt mean theyre completely fine. They may continue to deal with suicidal thoughts until they get help addressing the underlying concern.
Staying in touch with your friend can remind them you still care, even after the crisis has passed.
Check in on how theyre feeling by saying things like:
- Hey, Ive been thinking about you. How are you doing?
- Remember, Im always here if you feel like talking.
Be Alert To Signs That Treatment Is Not Working
On the other hand, the absence of any such signs most likely means that ones depression is not improving and may be getting worse, Halaris notes, adding that a major concern in the absence of improvement is whether your loved one is having suicidal thoughts.
This is where you need to very gently raise the question whether they are having even fleeting thoughts of their life not being worth living, Halaris says.
According to Mayo Clinic, signs your loved one may be considering suicide include:
- Making statements such as I wish I were dead or I wish I hadnt been born
- Purchasing a gun or hoarding pills
- Fixating on violence, death, or dying
- Withdrawing from social contact with others
- Feeling hopeless or trapped in their current situation
- Telling people, goodbye, as if theyre going to disappear
- Getting their affairs in order or giving away their belongings with no other plausible explanation for doing so
If your loved one shows signs of considering or planning to take their own life, Halaris and Riba recommend taking steps to reduce their risk of attempting or completing suicide, such as:
Don’t Miss: Depressed Stocks To Buy Now
What Is Online Treatment As Well As Exactly How Can It Aid You
Online treatment is a new and also emerging form of health care delivered with the internet. It has actually become much more popular due to the fact that it allows for treatment without needing to find right into a workplace and can be done anonymously if preferred. This kind of treatment likewise provides versatility for mental health experts by allowing them to work from residence and establish their hrs.
Since online treatment is carried out with an online platform, it can be accessed anytime and anywhere. It also offers immediate responses to the individual, which implies they can obtain instant responses to their inquiries. Furthermore, online therapy sessions are private and also confidential due to the fact that the specialist does not know that their client is or where they are located. Depressed Person Doesn T Want Help
Minimizing Or Comparing Their Experience
If your friend talks about their depression, you might want to say things like, I understand, or Weve all been there. But if youve never dealt with depression yourself, this can minimize their feelings.
Depression goes beyond simply feeling sad or low. Sadness usually passes fairly quickly, while depression can linger and affect mood, relationships, work, school, and all other aspects of life for months or even years.
Comparing what theyre going through to someone elses troubles or saying things like, But things could be so much worse, generally doesnt help.
Your friends pain is whats real to them right now and validating that pain is what may help them most.
Say something like, I cant imagine how hard that is to deal with. I know I cant make you feel better, but just remember you arent alone.
You May Like: Can Severe Depression Cause Psychosis
Take Their Feelings Seriously
If someone is living with a mental health concern, it isnt possible for them just to snap out of it, cheer up or forget about it. Acknowledge that what’s happening must be difficult to handle don’t tell them that their feelings are weird or unfounded.
Try not to approach your friend like theyre a patient or someone who needs to be fixed…this might make them feel embarrassed and belittled, and can make them close themselves off to you. Anzelmo
If youre not sure how to help someone with depression or anxiety, ask them. You could also offer them some options and let them choose what suits them best. For example, you could offer to listen and let them express their thoughts, or just to hang out, without serious conversation.
Try to be caring, compassionate and curious, and let them know that they matter to you and you are taking them seriously.
How To Talk With Someone Experiencing Depression
Words are powerful tools not just what you say, but also how you say it.
When you speak with a loved one about depression, using a neutral, supportive tone can help you prevent your questions or statements from sounding accusatory or condescending.
If youre not sure how to express what youre thinking, you may find it helpful to write it down first.
Body language may also play a role in supportive communication. For example, nodding and making eye contact can show the person that they have your full attention.
Your loved one may not open up fully about what theyre experiencing. If youve established a calm and positive conversation, you might get additional insight through Ive noticed statements.
You might also bookmark:
Its a good idea to avoid opinionated or leading statements that imply your loved one has control over their depression or is somehow choosing to remain in a depressive state.
Someone living with depression is often grateful for what they have. They may know it could be worse.
Most likely, your person desperately wants to be relieved of their feelings of emptiness and despair, but no matter how happy they might try to be, those feelings wont go away.
Recommended Reading: How Can You Tell You Have Depression
Offer To Help With Everyday Tasks
With depression, day-to-day tasks can feel overwhelming. Things like laundry, grocery shopping, or paying bills can begin to pile up, making it hard to know where to start.
Your friend may appreciate an offer of help, but they also might not be able to clearly say what they need help with.
So, instead of saying Let me know if theres anything I can do, consider saying, What do you most need help with today?
If you notice their refrigerator is empty, say Can I take you grocery shopping, or pick up what you need if you write me a list? or Lets go get some groceries and cook dinner together.
If your friend is behind on dishes, laundry, or other household chores, offer to come over, put some music on, and tackle a specific task together. Simply having company can make the work seem less daunting.
Fill Your Own Cup First
It is difficult to support a close family member or friend with depression if you arent feeling healthy and well. Make sure you are looking after yourself by following the essential healthy living strategies that are beneficial for your mental health as well as your physical wellbeing.
Eat fresh, healthy foods, limit alcohol and processed foods, drink plenty of water and get enough sleep. The best way to fill your cup is to live a healthy lifestyle.
Don’t Miss: What Is Stage 2 Depression
Ways To Help A Friend With Depression Or Anxiety
If you want to be there for someone whos dealing with depression or anxiety, youre already being a great friend. It can be hard to know exactly how to help someone with depression or anxiety, and what to say to someone who’s having a rough time. Remember that each person is different, and while these tips are a guide, when helping a friend with depression or anxiety, its important to talk with your friend about what they feel they need.
How To Identify If Someones Life Is At Risk
If you notice any of the following occurring in yourself or your loved one please take immediate action to get professional help.
Don’t Miss: Alcohol Makes Me Depressed Now
Take Good Care Of Yourself
Finally, remember to pay attention to your own well-being. Consider therapy for yourself, or join a support group. This is a crucial step to lessen your own risk for depression, because caregivers have high rates of depression and anxiety. Other forms of self-care can be very helpful, too.
Numerous mental health organizations sponsor such groups and can also provide you with information on the illness, the latest treatments, and coping tips. With encouragement, knowledge, and support, youll feel stronger and more empowered to help shepherd your loved one through this difficult illness.
Supporting Your Loved Ones Treatment
One of the most important things you can do to help a friend or relative with depression is to give your unconditional love and support throughout the treatment process. This involves being compassionate and patient, which is not always easy when dealing with the negativity, hostility, and moodiness that go hand in hand with depression.
Provide whatever assistance the person needs . Help your loved one make and keep appointments, research treatment options, and stay on schedule with any treatment prescribed.
Have realistic expectations. It can be frustrating to watch a depressed friend or family member struggle, especially if progress is slow or stalled. Having patience is important. Even with optimal treatment, recovery from depression doesnt happen overnight.
Lead by example. Encourage the person to lead a healthier, mood-boosting lifestyle by doing it yourself: maintain a positive outlook, eat better, avoid alcohol and drugs, exercise, and lean on others for support.
Encourage activity. Invite your loved one to join you in uplifting activities, like going to a funny movie or having dinner at a favorite restaurant. Exercise is especially helpful, so try to get your depressed loved one moving. Going on walks together is one of the easiest options. Be gently and lovingly persistentdont get discouraged or stop asking.
Need to talk to someone?
Find Your Own Support
When someone you love has depression, it can take quite a toll. You might start to feel as though you may have depression yourself. A therapist can help you work through challenges and come up with a sustainable game plan for the long term.
A support group is also a great place to process emotions and meet like-minded people who understand what youre going through. Find a free, confidential NAMI family support in your area.
Let Them Know Youre There For Them
Depression can have a negative impact not just on the emotional elements of a persons life, but also on the more practical side. They may struggle to keep on top of daily chores and responsibilities due to a lack of energy or general interest in day-to-day life.
It can be really helpful to offer practical support to your loved one, whenever they need it. Ask them about the ways in which you can help them. It could be doing their weekly shop, helping with laundry or cleaning, or even cooking a few healthy meals.
Also, little gestures to let your loved one know that youre thinking of them can go a long way. Buy them their favourite magazine, surprise them with flowers, pick up the phone to tell them you love them, or just sit with them in silence it can all really help.
“My hopes for the future are that I’ll be able to handle myself. And to gain a better understanding of who I am, where I am and where I’m going.
Recommended Reading: Vitamins That Help With Depression
How To Help Someone With Depression Who Wont Talk
Everyone has had a bad day, been in a bad mood or experienced a difficult time in their lives, but this isnt the same as being depressed. And if youve never experienced a major depressive disorder, it can be very difficult to understand how it affects everything in your life and can make even the smallest tasks difficult. Some common, but not so helpful ways, people may try to cheer up a depressed person include telling them the situation isnt as bad as it seems, acting as if they can just magically get out of depression with the right playlist or a walk around the block or trying to commiserate too much and end up enabling the person into even more negative behaviors.
While these are all usually done out of concern for your loved one, it can be very frustrating when people with depression arent getting better. The truth is that depression is isolating and can be a very complex mental health condition. It requires a combination of various therapeutic techniques and often medication to start seeing an improvement in symptoms of depression.
However, this doesnt mean that you cant still be of help. Here are some ideas on how to help a friend with depression.
Bring Up Your Concerns With Your Loved One
If you notice signs of depression in your loved one, its important to calmly share your concerns in a way thats nonjudgmental, says Ole Thienhaus, MD, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Tucson. Its also crucial to give your loved one space to talk about what theyre feeling.
Listening is the most important part of beginning to help, Dr. Thienhaus says.
To get them talking, you may start by sharing the changes youve observed recently that worry you, Thienhaus says. When you do this, dont be critical just state the facts as you see them in a neutral way and pause often to give them room to respond to what you have to say.
Avoid any suggestion that they have no reason to feel so sad, Thienhaus adds. This means not saying things like, Look at all the good things in your life or Look at how much worse off so-and-so is, but she doesnt let her problems get her down.
Why is this harmful? Many people with depression already believe they should be able to snap out of it or should be mentally strong, Thames says, feelings that can stand in their way of seeking treatment for depression.
Recommended Reading: How To Cure Depression With Food
Tell Them You Understand
Before you tell someone “I understand,” you should be certain that you actually do. Have you ever experienced clinically significant depression? If you have, it may be helpful for your friend to hear that you have experienced what they are feeling and that it can get better.
Keep in mind, however, that there are several different types of depression, and even if you did experience clinical depression, it may have been very different than what your friend is going through.
If what you have been through was a case of the blues, on the other hand, your friend may feel like you are trivializing their experience by comparing it to yours.
In this case, it would be best to simply admit that you don’t understand exactly what they are going through, but that you care about them and want to try. Often, the best words to say are, “I don’t understand, but I really want to.”
What Not To Say And Why
I know exactly how you feel.Why? Because no one knows exactly how anyone else feels. This is not a helpful way to make someone feel understood when their depression has become overwhelming.
Everyone gets depressed sometimes.Why? Because it sounds dismissive and its not true. Everyone gets sad sometimes or has a bad day. Everyone does not get depressed.
You have no reason to be depressed.Why? Because it can make people feel guilty, ashamed, or like their feelings dont count. Life events can sometimes play a role, but depression often has no specific reason, trigger, or cause.
Hang in there. It will pass.Why? Because its unhelpful and untrue. Chances are, theyve been feeling this way for some time, and it hasnt gotten better and thats why theyre asking for support.
Dont be so negative. Think happy thoughts.Why? Because if it was that simple, depression wouldnt exist. This statement implies that depression is a choice which is false. You cant just will or wish it away.
Read Also: How To Deal With Perimenopause Depression
Why Is Dealing With Depression So Difficult
Depression drains your energy, hope, and drive, making it difficult to take the steps that will help you to feel better. Sometimes, just thinking about the things you should do to feel better, like exercising or spending time with friends, can seem exhausting or impossible to put into action.
Its the Catch-22 of depression recovery: The things that help the most are the things that are the most difficult to do. There is a big difference, however, between something thats difficult and something thats impossible. While recovering from depression isnt quick or easy, you do have more control than you realizeeven if your depression is severe and stubbornly persistent. The key is to start small and build from there. You may not have much energy, but by drawing on all your reserves, you should have enough to take a walk around the block or pick up the phone to call a loved one, for example.
Taking the first step is always the hardest. But going for a walk or getting up and dancing to your favorite music, for example, is something you can do right now. And it can substantially boost your mood and energy for several hourslong enough to put a second recovery step into action, such as preparing a mood-boosting meal or arranging to meet an old friend. By taking the following small but positive steps day by day, youll soon lift the heavy fog of depression and find yourself feeling happier, healthier, and more hopeful again.