Skip to main content Skip to bottom nav

How can I help people with depression?

151 Answers
Last Updated: 02/27/2018 at 3:42pm
1 Tip to Feel Better
United States
Moderated by

Monique Bivins, MA, LPC

Licensed Professional Counselor

I have a real passion for helping my clients to overcome life's obstacles . My work with clients is nonjudgmental, supportive, and interactive.

Top Rated Answers
August 20th, 2015 6:35pm
Depression is a serious but treatable disorder that affects millions of people, from young to old and from all walks of life. It gets in the way of everyday life, causing tremendous pain, hurting not just those suffering from it, but also impacting everyone around them. If someone you love is depressed, you may be experiencing any number of difficult emotions, including helplessness, frustration, anger, fear, guilt, and sadness. These feelings are all normal. It’s not easy dealing with a friend or family member’s depression. And if you don’t take care of yourself, it can become overwhelming. That said, there are steps you can take to help your loved one. Start by learning about depression and how to talk about it with your friend or family member. But as you reach out, don’t forget to look after your own emotional health. Thinking about your own needs is not an act of selfishness—it’s a necessity. Your emotional strength will allow you to provide the ongoing support your depressed friend or family member needs. Understanding depression in a friend or family member: Depression is a serious condition. Don’t underestimate the seriousness of depression. Depression drains a person’s energy, optimism, and motivation. Your depressed loved one can’t just “snap out of it” by sheer force of will. The symptoms of depression aren’t personal. Depression makes it difficult for a person to connect on a deep emotional level with anyone, even the people he or she loves most. In addition, depressed people often say hurtful things and lash out in anger. Remember that this is the depression talking, not your loved one, so try not to take it personally. Hiding the problem won’t make it go away. Don’t be an enabler. It doesn’t help anyone involved if you are making excuses, covering up the problem, or lying for a friend or family member who is depressed. In fact, this may keep the depressed person from seeking treatment. You can’t “fix” someone else’s depression. Don’t try to rescue your loved one from depression. It’s not up to you to fix the problem, nor can you. You’re not to blame for your loved one’s depression or responsible for his or her happiness (or lack thereof). Ultimately, recovery is in the hands of the depressed person. Is my friend or family member depressed? Family and friends are often the first line of defense in the fight against depression. That’s why it’s important to understand the signs and symptoms of depression. You may notice the problem in a depressed loved one before he or she does, and your influence and concern can motivate that person to seek help. Be concerned if your loved one... Doesn’t seem to care about anything anymore. Is uncharacteristically sad, irritable, short-tempered, critical, or moody. Has lost interest in work, sex, hobbies, and other pleasurable activities. Talks about feeling “helpless” or “hopeless.” Expresses a bleak or negative outlook on life. Frequently complains of aches and pains such as headaches, stomach problems, and back pain. Complains of feeling tired and drained all the time. Has withdrawn from friends, family, and other social activities. Sleeps less than usual or oversleeps. Eats more or less than usual, and has recently gained or lost weight. Has become indecisive, forgetful, disorganized, and “out of it.” Drinks more or abuses drugs, including prescription sleeping pills and painkillers. How to talk to a loved one about depression Sometimes it is hard to know what to say when speaking to a loved one about depression. You might fear that if you bring up your worries he or she will get angry, feel insulted, or ignore your concerns. You may be unsure what questions to ask or how to be supportive. If you don’t know where to start, the following suggestions may help. But remember that being a compassionate listener is much more important than giving advice. You don’t have to try to “fix” the person; you just have to be a good listener. Often, the simple act of talking to someone face to face can be an enormous help to someone suffering from depression. Encourage the depressed person to talk about his or her feelings, and be willing to listen without judgment. Don’t expect a single conversation to be the end of it. Depressed people tend to withdraw from others and isolate themselves. You may need to express your concern and willingness to listen over and over again. Be gentle, yet persistent. Ways to start the conversation: I have been feeling concerned about you lately. Recently, I have noticed some differences in you and wondered how you are doing. I wanted to check in with you because you have seemed pretty down lately. Questions you can ask: When did you begin feeling like this? Did something happen that made you start feeling this way? How can I best support you right now? Have you thought about getting help? Remember, being supportive involves offering encouragement and hope. Very often, this is a matter of talking to the person in language that he or she will understand and respond to while in a depressed mind frame. What you can say that helps: You are not alone in this. I’m here for you. You may not believe it now, but the way you’re feeling will change. I may not be able to understand exactly how you feel, but I care about you and want to help. When you want to give up, tell yourself you will hold on for just one more day, hour, minute—whatever you can manage. You are important to me. Your life is important to me. Tell me what I can do now to help you. Avoid saying: It’s all in your head. We all go through times like this. Look on the bright side. You have so much to live for why do you want to die? I can’t do anything about your situation. Just snap out of it. What’s wrong with you? Shouldn’t you be better by now? Adapted from: The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance Taking care of yourself while helping a depressed person There’s a natural impulse to want to fix the problems of people we love, but you can’t control a loved one’s depression. You can, however, control how well you take care of yourself. It’s just as important for you to stay healthy as it is for the depressed person to get treatment, so make your own well-being a priority. Remember the advice of airline flight attendants: put on your own oxygen mask before you assist anyone else. In other words, make sure your own health and happiness are solid before you try to help someone who is depressed. You won’t do your friend or family member any good if you collapse under the pressure of trying to help. When your own needs are taken care of, you’ll have the energy you need to lend a helping hand. Tips for taking care of yourself Think of this challenging time like a marathon; you need extra sustenance to keep yourself going. The following ideas will help you keep your strength up as you support your loved one through depression treatment and recovery. Speak up for yourself. You may be hesitant to speak out when the depressed person in your life upsets you or lets you down. However, honest communication will actually help the relationship in the long run. If you’re suffering in silence and letting resentment build, your loved one will pick up on these negative emotions and feel even worse. Gently talk about how you’re feeling before pent-up emotions make it too hard to communicate with sensitivity. Set boundaries. Of course you want to help, but you can only do so much. Your own health will suffer if you let your life be controlled by your loved one’s depression. You can’t be a caretaker round the clock without paying a psychological price. To avoid burnout and resentment, set clear limits on what you are willing and able to do. You are not your loved one’s therapist, so don’t take on that responsibility. Stay on track with your own life. While some changes in your daily routine may be unavoidable while caring for your friend or relative, do your best to keep appointments and plans with friends. If your depressed loved one is unable to go on an outing or trip you had planned, ask a friend to join you instead. Seek support. You are NOT betraying your depressed relative or friend by turning to others for support. Joining a support group, talking to a counselor or clergyman, or confiding in a trusted friend will help you get through this tough time. You don’t need to go into detail about your loved one’s depression or betray confidences; instead focus on your emotions and what you are feeling. Make sure you can be totally honest with the person you turn to—no judging your emotions! Encouraging a depressed person to get help Beating depression, one day at a time You can’t beat depression through sheer willpower, but you do have some control—even if your depression is severe and stubbornly persistent. The key to depression recovery is to start with a few small goals and slowly build from there. Feeling better takes time, but you can get there if you make positive choices for yourself each day and draw on the support of others. Read Dealing with Depression While you can't control someone else’s recovery from depression, you can start by encouraging the depressed person to seek help. Getting a depressed person into treatment can be difficult. Depression saps energy and motivation, so even the act of making an appointment or finding a doctor can seem daunting. Depression also involves negative ways of thinking. The depressed person may believe that the situation is hopeless and treatment pointless. Because of these obstacles, getting your loved one to admit to the problem—and helping him or her see that it can be solved—is an essential step in depression recovery. If your friend or family member resists getting help for depression: Suggest a general check-up with a physician. Your loved one may be less anxious about seeing a family doctor than a mental health professional. A regular doctor’s visit is actually a great option, since the doctor can rule out medical causes of depression. If the doctor diagnoses depression, he or she can refer your loved one to a psychiatrist or psychologist. Sometimes, this “professional” opinion makes all the difference. Offer to help your depressed loved one find a doctor or therapist and go with them on the first visit. Finding the right treatment provider can be difficult, and is often a trial-and-error process. For a depressed person already low on energy, it is a huge help to have assistance making calls and looking into the options. Encourage the person to make a thorough list of symptoms and ailments to discuss with the doctor. You can even bring up things that you have noticed as an outside observer, such as, “You seem to feel much worse in the mornings,” or “You always get stomach pains before work.” Supporting your loved one's depression 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 (and is willing to accept). 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 doesn’t happen overnight. Lead by example. Encourage your friend or family member 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 persistent—don’t get discouraged or stop asking. Pitch in when possible. Seemingly small tasks can be hard for a depressed person to manage. Offer to help out with household responsibilities or chores, but only do what you can without getting burned out yourself! The risk of suicide is real What to do in a crisis situation If you believe your loved one is at an immediate risk for suicide, do NOT leave the person alone. In the U.S., dial 911 or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK. In other countries, call your country’s emergency services number or visit IASP to find a suicide prevention helpline. It may be hard to believe that the person you know and love would ever consider something as drastic as suicide, but a depressed person may not see any other way out. Depression clouds judgment and distorts thinking, causing a normally rational person to believe that death is the only way to end the pain he or she is feeling. When someone is depressed, suicide is a very real danger. It’s important to know the warning signs: Talking about suicide, dying, or harming oneself Preoccupation with death Expressing feelings of hopelessness or self-hate Acting in dangerous or self-destructive ways Getting affairs in order and saying goodbye Seeking out pills, weapons, or other lethal objects Sudden sense of calm after a depression If you think a friend or family member might be considering suicide, talk to him or her about your concerns as soon as possible. Many people feel uncomfortable bringing up the topic but it is one of the best things you can do for someone who is thinking about suicide. Talking openly about suicidal thoughts and feelings can save a person’s life, so speak up if you're concerned and seek professional help immediately!
Anonymous - Expert in Depression
August 19th, 2015 8:34am
You cannot cure their depression, but you can give them hope. Allow them to talk and hear their story, and provide resources and suggestions to get them on their way to recovery
August 21st, 2015 11:14pm
Help people with depression by understanding their pain and talking with them about their thoughts. Always remind them that you are there for them
September 10th, 2015 4:58am
I can help someone with depression by getting to the real reason for depression and not just saying oh well do this or do that, no matter what the situation Is, no one deserves to be depressed and your not to blame for It. My advice to anyone that Is depressed and feels like they just cant talk to someone, simply because you think someone doesn't care or that they will think your over reacting Is to get out In the fresh air and go near a lake or a river and sit there and star at the water(even though some might call me crazy for saying this) because Its a known fact that will calm your mind and when your calm, angels surround you, and once you have angels around you God will heal your heart, so don't stay at home and cry and feel sorry for yourself, find something that makes your happy, regardless of what anyone thinks or says, and just do It and you'll attract positive energy and people and you will see how your life will change!
August 19th, 2015 6:59pm
i can help a person by helping to find his/her faith in herself/himself that has been gone for a long time.
August 20th, 2015 11:52am
yes if you take sign on the to be a listener you can do that to help people with depression and its good
August 21st, 2015 5:34am
Dealing with depression involves challenging the thoughts that people may have. You can do this by identifying problematic of negative thoughts about situations and working to challenge and contest them. For example if a depressed person is consistently thinking that they are unlovable or not worth while due to particular reasons then it might be helpful to try to evaluate those negative thoughts and replace them with more positive ones. Sometimes depressed people just need to feel that they are not alone and that their feelings are valid and that they are understood, then you can work through some of the feelings they may be experiencing and help them to take steps towards recovery.
September 20th, 2015 11:18pm
Look forward to the good things about life: Marriage, Children, Travelling...etc. Just because the present isn't going the way you want it to doesn't mean your future will be the same.
September 24th, 2015 2:04am
Simply just be there for them. Someone who is depressed might feel like no one cares about them. So you can just spend time with them, show them you care, and most of all don't yell at them or tell them to snap out of it because they probably can't do it on their own.
September 24th, 2015 6:07pm
i can help people with depresiion just by acting like a friend and being there when they need someone to talk to
October 23rd, 2015 3:10am
you can read over this link its a self help guide on depression also by contacting a mentor or peer support
October 31st, 2015 6:57am
Try to share your own experience with them and talk to them about anything because depression usually caused by loneliness, let them know they are not alone and everything will be fine, you're here for them. Share them relaxing music usually helps too.
December 6th, 2015 1:12am
In my experience, the best way to help people with their depression is to let them know we are there for them. One of the main things about depression is that it alienates its victim....they usually feel like they are alone and no one cares for them.
December 24th, 2017 6:09pm
Support and encouragement from the family/friends is the key to cope with depression. here are a few suggestions from my side; 1. Be there for them- be a helping hand or spoke warmly to them with statements like ‘You’re so important to me.’ ‘Tell me what I can do to help you.’ ‘We’re going to find a way to help you to feel better', etc. 2. Try a small gesture- You can be compassionate, empathetic and kind to them, and If you're uncomfortable with emotional expression, you can show support in other ways like sending a card or a text to cooking a meal to leaving a voicemail. 3. Don’t judge or criticize- Never ever judge or criticise :( What you say can have a powerful impact on your loved one. 4. Avoid offering advice- It probably seems natural to share advice with your loved one. Whenever someone we care about is having a tough time, we yearn to fix their heartache. But sometimes it may end up in a bad way. So what you can do is offer suggestions. Also, do not compare with anyone,
August 21st, 2015 12:59pm
dealing with depression takes time, but the first step is getting out of your comfort zone and going for a walk, taking in some fresh air, getting the sun in your face. Dont think that your position is permanent because they are always ways of dealing with it. but let your first step be getting out of your home, and doing other things, being around people, family friends.
August 21st, 2015 10:17pm
Depression is a very hard thing to help with. The main thing that I personally believe that can really help people with depression is if you just listen to them. Be there to support them, without judgement, and make sure that they know that they are not alone and loved!
August 22nd, 2015 2:56am
You can try to support them in the best way, and try to find some things to make them happy. Invite them maybe over, to have some coffee and talk possibly. They will feel more comfortable, talking.
August 22nd, 2015 2:56am
Ill show you the way to get back on your feet if you fall down,but its your responsibility to stand tall and keep moving forward.
August 23rd, 2015 12:49am
Doing some activities that we love and enjoy will help us to reduce the tension and will keep our minds busy and away from overthinking of the negative thoughts :)
August 23rd, 2015 6:41pm
The best thing is to ask them how you could help. Some people want to be alone some don't etc Ask them if they would like to be alone or not. However maybe check on them every now and again, as little acts like that make people feel important and like you think about them. It validates their existance. :)
August 26th, 2015 6:58am
A good start is being there to support them and by listening to them. If their depression is severe to where they feel like hurting them selves direct them to call 911 or go to the hospital.
August 27th, 2015 3:29am
Check in on them a lot, even if they don't seem too interested. Invite them out for walks. Offer to help them with specific tasks like dinner or laundry or the mail (this could be a one-time thing or recurring). Gently encourage them to get help if they aren't seeing a therapist, but don't nag or order them around. Let them know you care about them. Let them express their negative feelings if they want to, and instead of arguing and saying things aren't that bad, say things like, "I'm sorry you're going through this" and "that sounds awful." It will actually make them feel better if you let them talk about how bad things are, but if you pressure them to "be grateful" or "think positive," they will feel stressed and invalidated and like they can't talk honestly to you. They may be easily overwhelmed, so don't flood them with advice. They may need help breaking tasks up into small manageable steps. If it's very important to you that they do a particular thing, do it with them--the presence and encouragement of another person will make it easier for them to do it. Whatever you do, do NOT call them lazy or blame them for being unproductive. They already feel terrible about that.
August 27th, 2015 5:46pm
You help a lot by just being there. Depressed people often tend to push people away and distance themselves. Just let them know you are there if they need you but don't push them to do anything.
August 28th, 2015 5:02am
The best way to help people with depression is to let them know they have someone to talk to. Listen to them and validate their feelings. Be respectful of their feelings. And it can't hurt to make them laugh
August 29th, 2015 12:43pm
Be there for them. Show them that you care, even if you don't understand. Show care to yourself too! Love them and listen to them.
August 30th, 2015 6:17am
Be empathetic, caring, understanding, and non-judgemental of what they are feeling. Most are afraid to open up about depression because they feel as though they will be judged badly. Make sure to not give them advice but to just listen to their sadness and sit in the feelings with them until they are ready to change their mood and get some help.
August 30th, 2015 4:45pm
I can help them by listening to them, supporting them, and letting them know they are not alone.HOPE
September 1st, 2015 3:52pm
Remember, you cannot solve everyone's problems, nor can you 100% know what someone is feeling/what they are going through. You can listen and help them discover their own feelings and let them talk it out. We often feel like we have to have the solutions or advice, but sometimes just listening to them can help. Also, if it is a situation where they need professional help, you need to have the courage to advise them to seek out professional help.
September 3rd, 2015 4:17am
Relate to them. Ask them what makes them feel this way. Ask them to reach out to a professional such as therapy
September 4th, 2015 1:42pm
Always tell depressed people how much you love them. It may sound repetitive at times, but they need to know how much they are cared for and how much they mean to you. Never tell them to 'get over it' or 'snap out of it', it's never that simple.