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9 ways to help someone with depression


Depression may be more common now than ever before. In the past year, the pandemic was linked to a nearly four-fold increase from the prior year in symptoms of depression or anxiety.1

We all likely know someone who’s had, or is suffering from, depression. There is the temporary kind, occurring when someone experiences the loss of a loved one or other traumatic event. Then there is the kind of depression where the numbness or sadness lingers, impacting their life, and, in some cases, requiring professional care. 

It can be challenging to know what you can do for a loved one or friend who is depressed. Depression is not an easy thing to talk about, especially to someone who may not be in the mood to talk at all, yet being there for them is so very important. There are things you can do, however, to support them. Here are some suggestions.

1. Learn. Depression is a condition most often characterized as a chemical imbalance in the brain. It can influence every part of someone’s life and their ability to function. Before you attempt to help, do some research about this condition. Learn about the symptoms of depression and how it affects those who live with it.   

2. Listen. Give your loved one or friend space to talk and be especially aware of how you’re expressing your support. For example, if you haven’t experienced depression, declaring that you understand what they’re going through may seem insincere. It can also be very tempting to interrupt with advice. Offering advice can come across as an attempt to “fix” the person or become their therapist. Try active listening instead. Listen attentively while they speak, paraphrasing and mirroring back what is said without judgment. This can help them know you are absorbing and trying to understand what they’re saying. 

3. Support. Depression is often accompanied by isolation and can leave a person feeling vulnerable and alone. When approaching a loved one or friend, tell them how much you care about them and that you’re there for them if they need it. Be consistent with checking on them but try not to be too pushy or overly assertive. Some subtle ways to show support and care are:

  • Drop off a treat at their home or mail it to them with a small note of support.
  • Continue to invite them to social get-togethers or events they’ve liked attending in the past.
  • Take an interest in and encourage them in their treatment goals—such as taking their medications and keeping appointments.
  • Engage them in small ways throughout the day that don’t feel like you’re constantly ‘checking in.’ These will highly depend on the hobbies and tastes of your loved one or friend but some examples may be sending an article they would find interesting, a goofy meme, sharing a recipe you enjoyed, starting a game of Words with Friends, etc.

4. Be patient. If your loved one or friend is resistant to opening up, try to be understanding. It can take time for someone to feel comfortable about opening up. Seek to be persistent while still being subtle and compassionate.

5. Don’t judge. Don’t talk back to your loved one or friend if they react negatively. Try to just be there for them. When it’s appropriate, constructive criticism can be helpful but it’s more important to be sensitive and empathetic. For those who live with depression, some days can be better than others. Your loved one or friend may have little to no control over what triggers their condition.

6. Help with tasks. Your loved one or friend may struggle with housework, preparing meals, or other parts of daily life. It can be hard for someone affected by depression to manage these routine activities. Your support may provide some relief though you should also be careful not to enable inactivity. Try motivating your friend by offering to complete tasks together.

7. Seek more support. If your loved one or friend is resorting to self-destructive behaviors, know when it’s time to intervene. For example, if your friend mentions they are considering suicide, seek help immediately. Otherwise, if their symptoms are more mild, you can always offer to reach out with their permission. Make sure to continue your support if medical care is necessary.

8. Celebrate achievements. If your loved one or friend feels better and can do more on his or her own, compliment them on their improvement. Do something special to further encourage them, like going out to lunch or going for a hike.

9. Take care of yourself. Supporting someone who is experiencing depression can be difficult. Don’t overexert yourself at the expense of your own well-being. Being supportive to a loved one or good friend also means taking care of yourself. Make sure that you’re getting enough rest, eating well, and taking time to relax.

In life, we all face challenges, and supporting loved ones or friends can make all the difference. If someone you know is struggling with their mental health and you feel needs more support, we can help. We specialize in teletherapy, addiction recovery, depression screening and treatment, and more. And, if you or a loved one faces an emergency, contact our 24-hour Crisis Hotline at (518) 483-3261 or (518) 891-5535.