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How to Help Someone With Depression

Last Updated on April 16, 2024 by It’s Complicated

Recognizing the signs of depression and having awareness of how to extend a helping hand to your loved ones can pose a substantial challenge, especially in one’s own complicated life. In this article, we will delve into the importance of noticing these signs and providing support to those in need. We will outline the essential steps to effectively assist someone with depression, from identifying the early indicators to encouraging them to seek professional help, and ensuring you take care of yourself throughout this compassionate and often difficult journey.

Key Takeaways

  • Recognize signs of depression and offer support with empathy.

  • Initiate a conversation in the right environment, ask open-ended questions without judgment.

  • Encourage professional help, participate in therapy sessions and prioritize self care for your own mental health while supporting someone with depression.

Recognizing the Signs of Depression

Before assisting someone struggling with depression, it’s pivotal to identify various signs that suggest they are suffering. Depression manifests in different ways, including physical symptoms, emotional symptoms, and behavioral changes.

Grasping these signs will enable you to identify more accurately when your loved one is experiencing hardship, possibly due to past failures, thus facilitating your ability to offer the necessary support.

Physical Symptoms

Physical symptoms of depression can include:

  • Changes in sleep patterns

  • Changes in appetite

  • Changes in energy levels

  • Unexplained aches and pains

These symptoms might seem unrelated to mental health but are important indicators of your loved one’s well-being. Being aware of these changes and recognizing that they are part of your loved one’s mental illness, specifically depression, can help you empathize with their struggles and provide the necessary support.

Emotional Symptoms

Emotional depression symptoms, which can also be referred to as depressive symptoms, can be experienced by individuals with major depressive disorder and consist of:

  • Persistent feelings of sadness

  • Hopelessness

  • Guilt

  • Irritability

These emotions can swamp someone with depression, acknowledging their feelings as valid is of utmost importance. Remember that empathy and understanding are key when it comes to supporting your loved one through these difficult emotions.

Behavioral Changes

Behavioral changes associated with clinical depression can include withdrawal from social activities, loss of interest in hobbies, and increased substance use. It’s crucial to be patient and understanding when dealing with a depressed person displaying these changes, as they can be indicative of their mental health struggles.

By recognizing these signs, you can offer the necessary support and encouragement to help them through their journey.

Initiating a Conversation About Depression

Upon identifying the signs of depression in your loved one, it’s vital to start a discussion about their mental health. Approaching this subject can be delicate, but it’s essential to discuss your concerns with empathy and understanding.

In this section, we will explore how to choose the right time and place, what to say and avoid saying, and how to encourage open communication.

Choosing the Right Time and Place

The environment in which you initiate the conversation is crucial. Find a quiet, private setting where both you and your loved one feel comfortable. This will allow for a more open and honest dialogue about their depression, without the distractions or discomfort of a public setting. It’s important to recognize when it’s your loved one’s genuine feelings or just the depression talking.

Make sure to choose a time when both of you are calm and relaxed, as this will facilitate a more productive conversation.

What to Say and Avoid Saying

When discussing your loved one’s depression, it’s important to use open-ended questions and avoid judgmental language. Ask questions like, “How are you feeling?” and “What can I do to help?”. Avoid phrases that may imply their feelings are unjustified, such as “Focus on the positive” or “Others have it worse”.

Remember, your goal is to offer support and understanding, not to minimize their experience.

Encouraging Open Communication

Being patient and actively listening to your loved one is essential during this conversation. Allow them to share their feelings and experiences without interruption or judgment. This open communication will enable them to feel supported and understood while providing valuable insight into their emotional state.

By fostering a safe and supportive environment for them to express themselves, you’re already taking a significant step in helping them through their depression.

Encouraging Professional Help

A person attending an appointment with a mental health provider

Depression is a multifaceted condition that frequently necessitates professional intervention. Motivating your loved one to consult a mental health professional marks a significant step in their recovery journey. In this section, we will discuss how to assist them in finding a mental health professional, attending appointments, and supporting their treatment journey.

Finding a Mental Health Professional

One of the most effective ways to help your loved one is to assist them in finding a mental health professional who specializes in depression treatment. Platforms like It’s Complicated offer a convenient way to find therapists specializing in depression, with 379 specialists listed on their platform.

Offer to help them research potential therapists or doctors, and even suggest accompanying them to their appointments if they would like.

Accompanying Them to Appointments

Offering to accompany your loved one to their appointments can provide invaluable moral support and encouragement. By attending appointments with them, you can help alleviate any anxiety they might feel and ensure that they understand the advice given by their healthcare provider.

This support can make a significant difference in their willingness to seek and engage in treatment.

Supporting Their Treatment Journey

Throughout your loved one’s treatment journey, it’s important to:

  • Remain patient, understanding, and supportive

  • Encourage them to adhere to their treatment plan

  • Celebrate their progress and achievements

  • Recognize that the road to recovery may not be linear

  • Understand that setbacks are a normal part of the process

By standing by them through the ups and downs, you’re showing them that they’re not alone in their fight against depression.

Offering Practical Support

A person engaging in physical activity to help with depression

While emotional backing is of paramount importance, providing tangible assistance can greatly impact your loved one’s daily life. Assisting with daily tasks, encouraging social interaction, and promoting healthy lifestyle choices can contribute to their overall well-being and recovery.

In this section, we will delve into the different ways you can offer practical support to your loved one.

Assisting with Daily Tasks

Helping your loved one with chores, errands, or other responsibilities can alleviate some of their stress and make their everyday life more manageable. Here are some ways you can offer assistance:

  • Grocery shopping

  • Meal preparation

  • Cleaning the house

  • Running errands

  • Taking care of their pets

  • Assisting with personal care tasks

Be mindful of their energy levels and capacity to handle chores, and always ask for their preferences and needs before offering help.

By providing this support, you’re helping to create a more structured and supportive environment for their recovery.

Encouraging Social Interaction

Isolation can exacerbate depression, so gently encourage your loved one to engage in social activities and maintain connections with friends and family. Suggest activities they may find enjoyable, such as attending a hobby group or going for a walk with a close friend. Be patient and understand that it may take time for them to regain interest in socializing, but your encouragement can help them reconnect with their support network.

Promoting Healthy Lifestyle Choices

Supporting your loved one in adopting a balanced diet, regular exercise, and proper sleep habits can have a positive impact on their mental health. Encourage them to engage in physical activities they enjoy, and help them establish a consistent sleep schedule.

By promoting these healthy lifestyle choices, you’re contributing to their overall well-being and recovery.

Being Aware of Suicide Risk

Depression can occasionally trigger suicidal thoughts or actions. Recognizing the warning signs of suicide and voicing your concerns openly is of utmost importance. In this section, we will discuss how to identify warning signs, talk about suicide concerns, and seek immediate help if necessary.

Identifying Warning Signs

Recognizing the warning signs of suicide is essential to protect your loved one. These may include significant changes in mood, behavior, and talk of suicide or self-harm. If you notice any of these signs, it’s imperative to address your concerns and take them seriously.

Talking About Suicide Concerns

If you’re worried about your loved one’s suicide risk, it’s important to discuss your concerns with them in a non-judgmental and supportive manner. Ask open-ended questions and be prepared to listen and validate their feelings. By addressing these concerns openly, you’re showing your loved one that they’re not alone and that help is available.

Seeking Immediate Help

If your loved one is in immediate danger, it’s crucial to seek help right away. Here are some steps you can take:

  1. Call emergency services in your country or contact a crisis hotline.

  2. Stay with your loved one and provide reassurance and support.

  3. Encourage them to talk about their feelings and listen without judgment.

  4. Remove any objects that could be used for self-harm.

  5. Avoid leaving them alone until professional help arrives.

Your prompt action can save a person’s life and provide the necessary support during a critical time.

Participating in Support Groups and Family Therapy Sessions

A group of people attending a support group session

Participation in support groups and family therapy sessions can offer valuable insights into your loved one’s experiences, bolstering your support network. In this section, we will discuss the benefits of participating in support groups and family therapy, as well as how to find local resources.

Benefits of Support Groups

Participating in support groups offers numerous benefits, such as gaining insight, sharing experiences, and learning coping strategies from others who have faced similar challenges. Support groups create a safe environment for emotional expression and provide a sense of community, connection, and validation.

These groups can be an essential source of encouragement and support throughout your loved one’s recovery journey.

Finding Local Resources

To find local support groups and family therapy resources, you can consult with your doctor or mental health professional for referrals, search online using relevant keywords, or contact a local mental health provider organization.

Many support groups now offer virtual meetings, making it even easier to connect with others and access the support you need.

The Role of Family Therapy

Family therapy is a form of therapy that involves the entire family and focuses on improving communication and understanding among family members. Attending family therapy sessions can help you better understand your loved one’s experience and learn how to provide more effective support.

By fostering healthy communication and promoting a stronger support network within the family unit, you’re helping to create a nurturing environment for your loved one’s recovery.

Prioritizing Self-Care While Supporting a Loved One

A person setting boundaries while supporting a loved one with depression

Although providing support to a loved one with depression is indispensable, prioritizing your own mental and emotional health in your own life is equally significant.

In this section, we will discuss setting boundaries, seeking support for yourself, and practicing self-compassion.

Setting Boundaries

Establishing and maintaining healthy boundaries is vital to protecting your own mental health and well-being. Be mindful of the time and effort you dedicate to supporting your loved one, and remember that it’s okay to prioritize your own needs.

By setting boundaries, you’re ensuring that you can continue to provide support without compromising your own well-being.

Seeking Support for Yourself

As you support your loved one, don’t forget to seek support for yourself. Reach out to friends, family, or a mental health professional for guidance and encouragement. Sharing your experiences and feelings with others can provide you with the necessary perspective and support to continue helping your loved one.

Practicing Self-Compassion

Finally, remember to be kind to yourself and acknowledge the challenges of supporting a loved one with depression. Practice self-compassion by recognizing that you are doing your best and that it’s normal to feel overwhelmed at times.

By taking care of your own mental and emotional well-being, you’ll be better equipped to support your loved one on their journey to recovery.


In conclusion, helping a loved one with depression can be a challenging but rewarding journey. By recognizing the signs of depression, initiating a conversation, encouraging professional help, being aware of suicide risk, and prioritizing self-care, you can make a significant difference in your loved one’s life. Your support and encouragement can be the key to their recovery and well-being.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can we help individuals who are suffering from depression?

Reach out to the individual, let them know you are there for them and remind them that they can seek help from a professional. Encourage them to talk about their experiences and offer support in finding resources to manage their mental health.

What are 3 ways to help treat depression?

Treating depression typically involves a combination of psychotherapy, medication, and lifestyle changes. Psychotherapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, helps individuals identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviors. Medications, like antidepressants, can be prescribed by healthcare providers to regulate brain chemicals and alleviate symptoms. Lifestyle changes, including regular exercise, a balanced diet, adequate sleep, and stress management, contribute to improved mood. Engaging in social activities and maintaining relationships also play a vital role. Treatment approaches should be tailored to individual needs, and consulting a mental health professional is essential for developing a personalized plan for managing depression.

What is the best way to help someone who is sad?

Show your support and understanding, remind them that they matter and are not alone, and encourage them to talk to a professional or ask for help. Let them know you are there for them and willing to listen. You can read about common barriers to seeking therapy and use it to guide the conversation with your loved one.

What is one way to help someone with depression?

Encourage your loved one to engage in activities together with you, be it a walk, a movie or a hobby. Show patience and remind them that treatment can often bring quick relief from their symptoms. Wherever you are in the world, find a therapist who can help treat major depressive disorder.

What are the physical symptoms of depression?

Depression can manifest through changes in sleep patterns, appetite, energy levels, and aches and pains.

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