Helping Someone with Depression (2023)

Not everyone experiences depression in the same way, and symptoms can vary.

If your friend is experiencing depression, they may:

  • seem more sad or tearful than usual
  • appear more pessimistic than usual or hopeless about the future
  • talk about feeling guilty, empty, or worthless more often than usual
  • seem less interested in spending time together or communicate less frequently than they normally would
  • get upset easily or seem unusually irritable
  • have less energy than usual, move slowly, or seem generally listless
  • have less interest in their appearance than usual or neglect basic hygiene, such as showering and brushing their teeth
  • have trouble sleeping or sleep much more than usual
  • care less about their usual activities and interests
  • experience forgetfulness more often or have trouble concentrating or deciding on things
  • eat more or less than usual
  • talk about death or suicide

These 10 tips can help you be a source of support for a friend with depression.

1. Start a conversation

Let your friend know you’re there for them. You can start the conversation by sharing your concerns and asking a specific question.

For example, you might say:

  • “It seems like you’ve been having a hard time lately. What’s on your mind?”
  • “The last few times we hung out, you seemed a little down. Is there anything going on you that you’d like to talk about?”
  • “You mentioned going through some hard times recently — how are you feeling about everything?”

Keep in mind that your friend may want to talk about what they feel, but they might not want advice.

Engage with your friend by using active listening techniques:

  • Ask questions to get more information instead of assuming you understand what they mean.
  • Validate their feelings. You might say, “That sounds really difficult. I’m sorry to hear that.”
  • Show empathy and interest with your body language.

Your friend may not feel like talking the first time you ask, so it can help to continue telling them you care.

Keep asking open questions (without being pushy) and expressing your concern. Try to have conversations in person whenever possible. If you live in different areas, try video chatting.

2. Help them find support

Your friend may not be aware they’re dealing with depression, or they may be unsure how to reach out for support.

Even if they know therapy could help, it can be daunting to search for a therapist and make an appointment.

If your friend seems interested in counseling, offer to help them review potential therapists. You can help your friend list things to ask potential therapists and things they want to mention in their first session.

Encouraging them and supporting them to make that first appointment can be so helpful if they’re having a hard time with it.

(Video) 15 Ways to Support Someone with Depression

3. Support them in continuing therapy

On a bad day, your friend might not feel like leaving the house. Depression can zap energy and increase the desire to self-isolate.

If they say something like, “I think I’m going to cancel my therapy appointment,” encourage them to stick with it.

You might say, “Last week you said your session was really productive and you felt a lot better afterward. What if today’s session helps, too?”

The same goes for medication. If your friend wants to stop taking medication because of unpleasant side effects, be supportive, but encourage them to talk with their psychiatrist about switching to a different antidepressant or stopping their medication entirely.

Abruptly stopping antidepressants without the supervision of a healthcare professional may have serious consequences. Typically, reaching out to a healthcare professional before stopping medication use can prevent health complications.

4. Take care of yourself

When you care about someone who’s living with depression, it’s tempting to drop everything to be by their side and support them. It’s not wrong to want to help a friend, but it’s also important to take care of your own needs.

If you put all your energy into supporting your friend, you’ll have very little left for yourself. And if you’re feeling burned out or frustrated, you won’t be much help to your friend.

Set boundaries

Setting boundaries can help. For example, you might let your friend know you’re available to talk after you get home from work, but not before then.

If you’re concerned about them feeling like they can’t reach you, offer to help them come up with a contingency plan if they need you during your work day. This might involve finding a hotline they can call or coming up with a code word they can text you if they’re in a crisis.

You might offer to stop by every other day or bring a meal twice a week, instead of trying to help every day. Involving other friends can help create a bigger support network.

Practice self-care

Spending a lot of time with a loved one who has depression can take an emotional toll. Know your limits around difficult emotions, and make sure you take time to recharge.

If you need to let your friend know you won’t be available for a while, you might say something like, “I can’t talk until X time. Can I check in with you then?”

5. Learn about depression on your own

Imagine having to educate each person in your life about a mental or physical health condition you’re experiencing — explaining it over and over again. Sounds exhausting, right?

You can talk with your friend about their specific symptoms or how they’re feeling, but avoid asking them to tell you about depression in general terms.

Read up on the symptoms, causes, diagnostic criteria, and treatments on your own.

While people experience depression differently, being familiar with the general symptoms and terminology can help you have more in-depth conversations with your friend.

These articles are a good starting point:

  • Depression: Facts, Statistics, and You
  • Types of Depression and How to Recognize Them
  • Causes of Depression
  • What It’s Really Like Going Through a Deep, Dark Depression

6. 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.

(Video) Helping Someone with Depression

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 there’s 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 “Let’s 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.

7. Extend loose invitations

People living with depression may have a hard time reaching out to friends and making or keeping plans. But canceling plans can contribute to guilt.

A pattern of canceled plans may lead to fewer invitations, which can increase isolation. These feelings can worsen depression.

You can help reassure your friend by continuing to extend invitations to activities, even if you know they’re unlikely to accept. Tell them you understand they may not keep plans when they’re in a rough patch and that there’s no pressure to hang out until they’re ready.

Just remind them you’re happy to see them whenever they feel like it.

8. Be patient

Depression usually improves with treatment, but it can be a slow process that involves some trial and error. They may have to try a few different counseling approaches or medications before they find one that helps their symptoms.

Even successful treatment doesn’t always mean depression goes away entirely. Your friend may continue to have symptoms from time to time.

In the meantime, they’ll probably have some good days and some bad days. Avoid assuming a good day means they’re “cured,” and try not to get frustrated if a string of bad days makes it seem like your friend will never improve.

Depression doesn’t have a clear recovery timeline. Expecting your friend to return to their usual self after a few weeks in therapy won’t help either of you.

9. Stay in touch

Letting your friend know you still care about them as they continue to work through depression can help.

Even if you aren’t able to spend a lot of time with them on a regular basis, check in regularly with a text, phone call, or quick visit. Even sending a quick text saying “I’ve been thinking of you and I care about you” can help.

People living with depression may become more withdrawn and avoid reaching out, so you may find yourself doing more work to maintain the friendship. But continuing to be a positive, supportive presence in your friend’s life may make all the difference to them, even if they can’t express that to you at the moment.

10. Know the different forms depression can take

Depression often involves sadness or a low mood, but it also has other, less well-known symptoms.

For example, many people don’t realize depression can involve:

  • anger and irritability
  • confusion, difficulties with memory, or difficulty focusing
  • excessive fatigue or sleep concerns
  • physical symptoms such as stomach distress, frequent headaches, or back and other muscle pain

Your friend may often seem to be in a bad mood, or feel exhausted a lot of the time. Try to keep in mind that what they’re feeling is still part of depression, even if it doesn’t fit into the stereotypical versions of depression.

(Video) How to Help Someone With Depression or Anxiety

Even if you don’t know how to help them feel better, simply saying “I’m sorry you’re feeling this way. I’m here to help if there’s anything I can do” may help.

1. Taking things personally

Your friend’s depression isn’t your fault, just as it’s not their fault.

Try not to let it get to you if they seem to lash out at you in anger or frustration, keep canceling plans (or forget to follow up), or don’t want to do much of anything.

You might, at some point, need a break from your friend. It’s OK to take space for yourself if you feel emotionally drained, but it’s also important to avoid blaming your friend or saying things that might contribute to their negative feelings.

Instead, consider talking with a therapist or other supportive person about how you feel.

2. Trying to fix them

Depression is a serious mental health condition that requires professional treatment.

It can be hard to understand exactly what depression feels like if you’ve never experienced it. But it isn’t something that can be cured with a few well-intentioned phrases like, “You should be grateful for the good things in your life” or “Just stop thinking about sad things.”

If you wouldn’t say something to someone living with a physical condition, like diabetes or cancer, you probably shouldn’t say it to your friend with depression.

You can encourage positivity (though your friend may not respond) by reminding them of things you like about them — especially when it seems like they only have negative things to say.

Positive support can let your friend know they do really matter to you.

3. Giving advice

Though certain lifestyle changes often help improve symptoms of depression, it can be hard to make these changes in the midst of a depressive episode.

You might want to help by offering advice, like getting more exercise or eating a balanced diet. But even if it’s good advice, your friend may not want to hear it at the moment.

There may come a time when your friend wants to find out what foods may help with depression or how exercise can relieve symptoms. Until then, though, it may be best to stick to empathic listening and avoid offering advice until asked.

Encourage positive change by inviting them on a walk or cooking a nutritious meal together.

4. Minimizing or comparing their experience

If your friend talks about their depression, you might want to say things like, “I understand,” or “We’ve all been there.” But if you’ve never dealt with depression yourself, this can minimize their feelings.

(Video) How to Help Someone With Depression: 32 Tips for When They Don't Want to Talk: Depression Skills #2

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 they’re going through to someone else’s troubles or saying things like, “But things could be so much worse,” generally doesn’t help.

Your friend’s pain is what’s real to them right now — and validating that pain is what may help them most.

Say something like, “I can’t imagine how hard that is to deal with. I know I can’t make you feel better, but just remember you aren’t alone.”

5. Taking a stance on medication

Medication can be very helpful for depression, but it doesn’t work well for everyone.

Some people dislike its side effects and prefer to treat depression with therapy or natural remedies. Even if you think your friend should take an antidepressant, remember that choosing to take medication is a personal decision.

Likewise, if you personally don’t believe in medication, avoid the subject when talking with them. For some people, medication is key in getting them to a place where they can fully engage in therapy and start taking steps toward recovery.

At the end of the day, whether or not someone with depression takes medication is a very personal decision that’s generally best left to them and their healthcare professional.

Depression can increase a person’s risk of suicide or self-injury, so it’s helpful to know how to recognize the signs.

Some signs that might indicate your friend is having serious suicidal thoughts include:

  • frequent mood or personality changes
  • talking about death or dying
  • purchasing a weapon
  • increased substance use
  • risky or dangerous behavior
  • getting rid of belongings or giving away treasured possessions
  • talking about feeling trapped or wanting a way out
  • pushing people away or saying they want to be left alone
  • saying goodbye with more feeling than usual

If you think your friend is considering suicide, urge them to call their therapist while you’re with them or ask your friend if you can call for them.

Crisis support

They can also text “HOME” to the Crisis Text Line at 741741 or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Not in the United States? The International Association for Suicide Prevention can link you to hotlines and other resources in your country.

You can also take your friend to an emergency room. If possible, stay with your friend until they no longer feel suicidal. Make sure they can’t access any weapons or drugs.

If you’re concerned about your friend, you might worry that mentioning it to them could encourage suicidal thoughts. But it’s generally helpful to talk about it.

(Video) How To Support Someone With Depression

Ask your friend if they’ve seriously considered suicide. They may want to talk with someone about it but are unsure of how to bring up the difficult topic.

Encourage them to talk with their therapist about those thoughts, if they haven’t already. Offer to help them create a safety plan to use if they think they might act on those thoughts.


What is the best way to help someone who is depressed definition? ›

How to help
  • Start a conversation. Let your friend know you're there for them. ...
  • Help them find support. ...
  • Support them in continuing therapy. ...
  • Take care of yourself. ...
  • Learn about depression on your own. ...
  • Offer to help with everyday tasks. ...
  • Extend loose invitations. ...
  • Be patient.
May 29, 2019

What can you say to people who are depressed? ›

10 Things To Say to Someone With Depression
  • You are loved. Those with depression often fight feelings of low self-worth. ...
  • You're not alone. ...
  • It's okay to feel this way. ...
  • It's okay to seek help. ...
  • Help me understand. ...
  • What do you need today? ...
  • You're important to me. ...
  • I'm not going to abandon you.
Dec 5, 2017

What advice would you give a depressed sad person? ›

Although it's important to show support by being present in someone's life and ensure they are not isolating themselves, often some time alone can be helpful to digest how they're feeling or just recharge their batteries. Offering to give someone space if they really need it can be a good idea.

How do you help someone who is really struggling? ›

Five ways you can help someone struggling
  1. Don't force them to talk. Although it's amazing to make yourself available to listen to someone who is struggling, be aware that they might not want to talk about it all the time. ...
  2. Keep inviting them. ...
  3. Send things that remind you of them. ...
  4. Ask them what they want to do. ...
  5. Offer hugs.
Sep 28, 2018

What are the 3 basic approaches to treating depression? ›

Three of the more common methods used in depression treatment include cognitive behavioral therapy, interpersonal therapy, and psychodynamic therapy.

How do you comfort an unhappy person? ›

It's better to sit and listen to them. To comfort an unhappy friend, it might be better to tell him or her that you would be sad, too, if you were going through what they are. “Tell them 'I'm here for you', and reassure them that 'it's okay to cry',” Borschel says.

How do you comfort someone who is down? ›

So to start off comforting someone, simply describe what you're seeing/sensing. Say something like, “I know you're having such a hard time with this,” or “I'm sorry you're hurting so much.” Also affirm that you hear what they're saying by saying it back to them in your own words.

How do you make someone feel better Who's sad? ›

50 Things You Can Do to Make Someone Feel Better
  1. Donate blood whenever you can, it may help a friend or family member in the future.
  2. Bake them a cake with a funny message on it.
  3. Make them dinner.
  4. Send them flowers.
  5. Send them a card.
  6. Send them a get-well text.
  7. Send them an inspirational book.
  8. Bring them a chocolate shake.
Jan 17, 2019

How do you empower someone with depression? ›

Empowerment can be developed by:
  1. being respectful and non-judgemental.
  2. building a relationship where the person feels comfortable to discuss their feelings and what they want.
  3. focussing on strengths and abilities.
  4. supporting and encouraging involvement in decision making.

What are positive mental health phrases? ›

Inspiring mental health quotes
  • "You don't have to control your thoughts. ...
  • "There is a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in." ― Leonard Cohen.
  • "Deep breathing is our nervous system's love language." — Dr. ...
  • "I think it's really important to take the stigma away from mental health…
Apr 29, 2022

How do you give emotional support? ›

What emotional support can I offer?
  1. Listen. Simply giving someone space to talk, and listening to how they're feeling, can be really helpful in itself. ...
  2. Offer reassurance. Seeking help can feel lonely, and sometimes scary. ...
  3. Stay calm. ...
  4. Be patient. ...
  5. Try not to make assumptions. ...
  6. Keep social contact.

What not to say to someone who is struggling? ›

Telling someone they don't want to get better can be quite dispiriting, especially when they're doing everything they can to find relief. “Snap Out of It.” Sometimes we might think if we're forceful enough, we can get the person to stop feeling anxious, depressed, panicked, or whatever else they're struggling with.

How do you help someone without telling them what to do? ›

The goal is to respect their right of self-determination and to strengthen their sense of self:
  1. Just be there. ...
  2. Empathize with the other person's situation. ...
  3. Use the skill of tentativeness. ...
  4. Tell a story. ...
  5. Expand your friend's perspective. ...
  6. Validate your friend's feelings in the situation.
Oct 24, 2014

What is one way to help a patient with depression? ›

Creating a regular routine may help a person with depression feel more in control. Offer to make a schedule for meals, medication, physical activity and sleep, and help organize household chores. Locate helpful organizations. A number of organizations offer support groups, counseling and other resources for depression.

What are the two solutions to depression? ›

Depression can be mitigated with a proper diagnosis and treatment.
  • Here are the 5 most common solutions for depression: Living with depression can feel like living under a dark, desolate, isolating cloud of doom. ...
  • Medication Management. ...
  • Lifestyle Changes. ...
  • Meditation. ...
  • Challenging Negative Thoughts.

What is the first step in treating depression? ›

The first step in treating clinical depression is recognizing that you are depressed. The second step is seeking help. These two steps may in fact be the hardest part of the entire treatment process.

What should I say to comfort someone? ›

Helpful things to say
  • "Can you tell me more about what's going on?"
  • "If you want to tell me more, I'm here to listen"
  • "I've noticed you haven't been yourself, is there anything on your mind?"
  • "I can see this is hard for you to open up about. It's ok to take your time. I'm not in any rush"

What do you text someone going through a hard time? ›

Simple Thinking-of-You Encouragement
  • “You're never far from my thoughts.”
  • “Know how often I think of you? ...
  • “You're on my mind and in my heart.”
  • “Keeping you close in my thoughts.”
  • “Lifting you up in prayer and hoping you have a better day today.”
  • “I can't wait to catch up with you soon.”
Aug 25, 2022

What is the 3 3 3 rule for depression? ›

Follow the 3-3-3 rule.

Look around you and name three things you see. Then, name three sounds you hear. Finally, move three parts of your body — your ankle, fingers, or arm.

How do you break depression patterns? ›

Lifestyle changes including getting regular exercise, eating a healthy diet, and getting plugged back into life also make a difference, especially when paired with medication and therapy. Making these changes may be easier said than done if you are depressed, but it's possible, says John L.

What works quickly for depression? ›

Types of fast-acting antidepressants
  • SSRIs such as fluoxetine (Prozac), citalopram (Celexa), and sertraline (Zoloft)
  • serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) such as venlafaxine (Effexor), desvenlafaxine (Pristiq), and duloxetine (Cymbalta)
May 12, 2022

Does interacting with people help with depression? ›

Study participants who met up with family and friends at least three times a week had the lowest level of depressive symptoms two years later - 6.5 percent - than those who had less frequent contact.

What is a good quote about depression? ›

"Depression is like a bruise that never goes away. A bruise in your mind. You just got to be careful not to touch it where it hurts. It's always here, though."

What are some short positive sayings? ›

Short motivational quotes
  • “Just one small positive thought in the morning can change your whole day.” — ...
  • “Opportunities don't happen, you create them.” — ...
  • “Love your family, work super hard, live your passion.” — ...
  • “It is never too late to be what you might have been.” —
Dec 1, 2022

What are 5 positive phrases? ›

9 Powerful Phrases Super Positive People Always Say
  • I admire you. Super positive people are appreciative. ...
  • You can do it. Super positive people are supportive. ...
  • I value you. Super positive people are caring. ...
  • You can count on me. Super positive people are collaborative. ...
  • I believe in you. ...
  • You are kind. ...
  • I trust you. ...
  • You are smart.
Jun 12, 2015

How to satisfy a woman emotionally? ›

How to Emotionally Satisfy a Woman
  1. Domestic support. Share the responsibilities of running the household. ...
  2. Make love, not sex. Well, physical intimacy is not limited to just one goal! ...
  3. Downplay ogling. If you are out with her make sure all your attention is on her. ...
  4. Make her laugh.
Jan 17, 2014

How do you give moral support to someone? ›

125 ways to show moral support
  1. Take something off of their plate. ...
  2. Be there in person. ...
  3. Be present. ...
  4. Show active listening. ...
  5. Refrain from "reading the other person's mind" ...
  6. Let them know that failure is OK. ...
  7. Help find exceptions to their struggles. ...
  8. Ask for what they need in the moment.
Apr 19, 2021

How do you tell someone you support them? ›

So to best support a friend or family member, you could say I'll support you no matter what, or I'll support you either way. I'll support you, no matter what you decide. Phrase number eight isn't my favorite one on the list, but it's close. I've got your back.

What are 3 therapy methods for treating mental disorders? ›

Treatment of Mental Illness
  • Drug Therapy.
  • Psychotherapy.
  • Electroconvulsive Therapy.

What are the three approaches to treatment? ›

Overview. Exploring Three Approaches to Psychotherapy gives readers in-depth analysis of what occurs in therapy as practiced according to three different orientations: cognitive, emotion-focused, and psychoanalytic.

What are the three approaches to the therapy? ›

Three different counselling approaches briefly explained
  • Psychodynamic:
  • Person-centred:
  • Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT):
Aug 9, 2016


1. How to deal with depression?
(Psych Hub)
2. How to support someone with suicidal thoughts?
(Psych Hub)
3. Major Depressive Disorder
(Psych Hub)
4. So you want to help someone with depression. What’s the best thing to say?
(One Mind)
5. Helping a friend struggling with depression: Tips from Dr. Randy Auerbach
(Columbia Psychiatry / NYSPI)
6. How to Help Someone with Depression
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Dr. Pierre Goyette

Last Updated: 01/30/2023

Views: 5727

Rating: 5 / 5 (50 voted)

Reviews: 89% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Dr. Pierre Goyette

Birthday: 1998-01-29

Address: Apt. 611 3357 Yong Plain, West Audra, IL 70053

Phone: +5819954278378

Job: Construction Director

Hobby: Embroidery, Creative writing, Shopping, Driving, Stand-up comedy, Coffee roasting, Scrapbooking

Introduction: My name is Dr. Pierre Goyette, I am a enchanting, powerful, jolly, rich, graceful, colorful, zany person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.