How to Cheer Up Someone with Depression: What to Do vs. What to Avoid (2023)

When a loved one is having a depressive episode you may want to help cheer them up. Here’s how to do it with intention.

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Knowing that a loved one is dealing with depression and not knowing how to support them can be challenging.

No one wants to watch someone they care about deal with difficult situations alone.

Determining the right things to say or do may not always feel intuitive, but that’s OK. There are several ways you can show up for a friend who’s experiencing depression without overstepping boundaries or stretching yourself thin.

One note on ‘cheering someone up’

Humans are naturally empathetic beings, so the desire to “cheer up” a loved one during a depressive episode is understandable. However, depression is like any other chronic condition: It can be managed and treated, but it can’t just disappear overnight. When someone experiences a depressive episode, it may be helpful to be strategic when you’re trying to cheer them up.

How to help a friend going through depression

(Video) Helping a friend struggling with depression: Tips from Dr. Randy Auerbach

Many people who have depression may find it challenging when others try to cheer them up when they’re feeling down.

When someone you care about is experiencing depression, finding productive ways to provide support may be the best course of action. Here are a few ideas.

Start a conversation

Bryan Bruno, MD, medical director at Mid City TMS in New York, says one of the best ways to support a loved one through their depression is to start a conversation.

He suggests phrasing questions thoughtfully, especially if they’re showing signs of suicidality. This can be done by inviting them to share their feelings first.

“One easy way to strike this balance is to open up with an acknowledgment of their feelings and ask how they’re doing,” Bruno says. “This will let them know that you’re there for them while also creating a safe space where they can share their feelings if they wish.”

Because of the potentially sensitive nature of the conversation, Bruno says if possible, an in-person conversation may be the ideal way to go. If this isn’t possible, a video chat may be another option.

Do your homework

It’s OK if depression or depressive episodes aren’t topics you’re well-versed in — you’re not expected to be an expert.

But if you’re feeling a lack of confidence in your knowledge of the subject and want to support a friend or loved one, you may wish to consider doing some research.

“Before opening up a dialogue with your loved one, consider learning about depression on your own time,” Bruno says. “Educating yourself will not only dispel mental health myths and stereotypes but also equip you to listen actively and give more considerate advice when needed.”

Like other mental health conditions, there’s no one-size-fits-all method for addressing depression. It’s OK to have questions about how it affects your loved one and their unique circumstances. You could find, though, that having a baseline understanding can go a long way.

“Having to explain their condition over and over to others is exhausting,” Bruno says. “Learning about the symptoms, causes, and treatments of depression can lead to a more productive and less burdensome conversation.”

(Video) What NOT to Say to a Depressed Loved One

If you’re unsure where to get started, Psych Central’s Depression Hub covers many of the topics Bruno suggests — plus many more.

Be patient

When navigating depression, especially if it’s a new diagnosis, it could take time for your loved one to reach a place that seems sustainable.

Whether finding a therapist that’s a good fit, acclimating to new or different medications, or developing coping strategies — these things can take time.

Because depression isn’t a condition that has a clear end date, and may potentially be triggered by a number of things, be prepared for your loved one to have both good and bad days.

If your goal is to support them, being consistent regardless of whether it’s a good mental health day or not is important.

Being patient can also include continuing to gently extend invitations for outings, even if you don’t think they’ll show up. It may be helpful to know you’re still being considered and wanted at events without the pressure or guilt of not feeling up to it.

Support them in tangible ways

Have you ever said, “Let me know what I can do!” to a friend who’s having a rough time? While it may seem like a common and courteous question, it could sometimes be unhelpful.

Even with the best intentions, when you ask someone what you can do to help, you place responsibility on the person who’s having a hard time.

When you rely on someone who has depression to ask you for help, it may lead to overwhelm. Oftentimes depression can make simple, everyday tasks feel difficult.

Instead, try being more specific with your questions. Here are a few ideas:

  • “Would it be helpful if I grabbed you some dinner on my way home from work today?”
  • “I’m going to take your trash out on my way to the car, do you have any recycling?”
  • “I’m going to run some errands in the city, I can drive over and scoop the kids from karate if you’d like!”
  • “I have a coupon code for Instacart, I can have some groceries delivered over here on Wednesday if that’s OK with you?”
  • “Would you like me to take your dog for walks this week?”

What to avoid when someone experiences depression

(Video) 15 Ways to Support Someone with Depression

Even the most well-meaning friends may occasionally have missteps or unintentionally cross a line with their loved ones during a depressive episode. Here’s what you may want to avoid doing when someone you know has depression.

Unsolicited advice or opinions

Regardless of what you may know about depression, Bruno advises against offering unsolicited advice to a loved one.

“Rather than immediately offering your input, use other active listening techniques like nodding your head, asking follow-up questions, and validating their experiences with affirmations,” Bruno says.

Everyone has their own way of navigating their mental disorder, and if they aren’t a danger to themselves or someone else, it may be counterproductive to judge their process.

If you believe your friend or a loved one is a danger to themselves or someone else, you might encourage them to enact their safety plan or reach out to their therapist or another crisis support person.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), warning signs of suicide include:

  • talking about wanting to die, being a burden, or shame
  • feeling trapped or hopeless
  • having overwhelming emotional pain
  • withdrawing from friends, giving away important items, and saying goodbye
  • changes in eating or sleeping patterns
  • risky behavior, including substance misuse

If you’re acutely concerned about their safety and they consent, you might consider staying with them while they make the call for support and help.

Suicide prevention resources

(Video) How to Help Someone With Depression or Anxiety

Suicide hotlines

If you or someone you care about is having thoughts of suicide or self-harm, free support is available with these resources:

  • The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Call the Lifeline at 800-273-8255, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  • The Crisis Text Line. Text HOME to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.
  • The Trevor Project. LGBTQIA+ and under 25 years old? Call 866-488-7386, text “START” to 678678, or chat online 24-7.
  • Veterans Crisis Line. Call 800-273-8255, text 838255, or chat online 24-7.
  • Deaf Crisis Line. Call 321-800-DEAF (3323) or text “HAND” at 839863.
  • Befrienders Worldwide. This international crisis helpline network can help you find a local helpline.

Psych Central resources

In addition to the resources above, we’ve collected suicide prevention, depression, and LGBTQIA+ hotline numbers in the following articles:

  • Suicide Prevention: Where to Get Help Now
  • Depression Hotline Numbers: Here’s Where to Get Help
  • Support Hotlines for Trans, Nonbinary, and Gender-Expansive Folks

Sustain healthy boundaries

We’re human and it’s natural for frustrations to occur, even with the most patient people. Even so, try to do your best to maintain perspective with a friend or family member that’s navigating a depressive episode.

Supporting someone during a delicate time can be taxing, and taking care of yourself is important. Neglecting yourself may lead to the focus being placed in the wrong direction during a sensitive time.

If you feel yourself growing irritable, it’s OK — just try to take a step back. Consider if you should implement new boundaries to help keep both you and your loved one on good terms.

Supporting a loved one through their depression may not be easy, but it’s possible to do so in a way that feels good to both you and your pal.

Remember that everyone has different needs and that depression is a chronic condition with no ultimate cure.

This doesn’t mean that things won’t get better — plenty of people navigate depression and still lead full lives. But it does emphasize the importance of being sensitive to what a friend needs during a delicate time, rather than what you feel may be best.

(Video) Love Someone Who Has Depression? This is What You Need to Know.

Try to take care of yourself during these times as well, because burnout limits your capacity to be your optimal self, and that’s what both you and your loved one deserve.

FAQs

What are three strategies for coping with depression? ›

Tips for coping with depression
  • Stay in touch. Don't withdraw from life. ...
  • Be more active. Take up some form of exercise. ...
  • Face your fears. Don't avoid the things you find difficult. ...
  • Don't drink too much alcohol. For some people, alcohol can become a problem. ...
  • Try to eat a healthy diet. ...
  • Have a routine.
Jan 4, 2023

What are 2 methods of treating depression? ›

Medications and psychotherapy are effective for most people with depression. Your primary care doctor or psychiatrist can prescribe medications to relieve symptoms. However, many people with depression also benefit from seeing a psychiatrist, psychologist or other mental health professional.

What do you say to someone who is struggling emotionally? ›

What to say to someone with a mental illness
  • "Do you want to talk about it? I'm always here for you." ...
  • "What can I do to help?" ...
  • "That sounds really difficult. ...
  • 4. " ...
  • "I'm really sorry you're going through this. ...
  • "Are you looking for my perspective or would you rather I listen?"
Nov 14, 2019

What habits do people with depression have? ›

Habits People With Depression Have in Common
  • Ruminating about the past. ...
  • Lack of structure. ...
  • Lack of hobbies. ...
  • Negative self-talk. ...
  • Lack of accountability. ...
  • Dismissal of positive experiences. ...
  • Disconnect from feelings.
Oct 28, 2019

What is the most effective way to stop depression? ›

Most mental health experts agree that a combination of psychotherapy and medication is the best treatment for depression (also called major depressive disorder and/or clinical depression).

What advice would you give a depressed sad person? ›

Sometimes the most important thing you can do for a depressed friend is to just listen sympathetically while they talk about what is bothering them, allowing them to relieve the pressure of pent-up feelings. Make sure to listen without interrupting.

How to cheer up someone? ›

Top 10 Ways to Cheer Someone Up
  1. Give a Gift.
  2. Watch a Movie Together.
  3. Share a Walk.
  4. Lend an Ear.
  5. Tell a Joke.
  6. Send a Handwritten Letter.
  7. Make Dinner.
  8. Volunteer Together.
Mar 31, 2022

What are 5 good coping strategies? ›

Healthy Ways to Cope with Stress
  • Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including those on social media. ...
  • Take care of yourself. ...
  • Take care of your body. ...
  • Make time to unwind. ...
  • Talk to others. ...
  • Connect with your community- or faith-based organizations.
  • Avoid drugs and alcohol.

What are 5 negative coping strategies? ›

Negative coping responses
  • Criticizing yourself (negative self-talk)
  • Driving fast in a car.
  • Chewing your fingernails.
  • Becoming aggressive or violent (hitting someone, throwing or kicking something)
  • Eating too much or too little or drinking a lot of coffee.
  • Smoking or chewing tobacco.
  • Drinking alcohol.

What are the 5 types of coping strategies? ›

There are five main types of coping skills: problem-focused strategies, emotion-focused strategies, meaning making, social support, and religious coping.

What are the don ts when trying to connect with a person with depression? ›

Don't: Shut them down

They might say things that scare you, like mentioning considering suicide. Don't shut them down or say things like “don't talk like that.” Listen actively and without judgment, while letting them know that you support them and can connect them to resources.

What is one way a person could cope with depression? ›

These healthy lifestyle habits, along with professional treatment, can help you manage the symptoms of major depression: Focus on self-care. Control stress with activities such as meditation or tai chi. Eat healthy, exercise, and get enough sleep.

How do you stabilize depression? ›

As you start to feel better, you can add more challenging daily goals.
  1. Exercise. It temporarily boosts feel-good chemicals called endorphins. ...
  2. Eat healthy. ...
  3. Get enough sleep. ...
  4. Challenge negative thoughts. ...
  5. Check with your doctor before using supplements. ...
  6. Do something new. ...
  7. Avoid alcohol and other drugs.
Oct 1, 2021

What not to say to someone struggling? ›

What not to say:
  • At least they're in a better place.
  • It could be so much worse.
  • You're better off.
  • Look on the bright side.
  • It's for the best.
Mar 14, 2022

How do you comfort someone who is emotionally unstable? ›

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 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 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 do depressed people crave? ›

However, it's not unusual to crave for high carbs, sugar, sweets and chocolates when you are feeling low or depressed. These sugar cravings can be your body's way to let you know that it is deprived of something you need like a specific vitamin or mineral.

What should depressed people watch? ›

15 Best Movies That Help with Depression
  • Cake (2014) ...
  • It's Kind of a Funny Story (2010) ...
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012) ...
  • The Virgin Suicides (1998) ...
  • Melancholia (2011) ...
  • Girl, Interrupted (1999) ...
  • Little Miss Sunshine (2006) ...
  • Silver Linings Playbook 2012.

Which personality is prone to depression? ›

People high in neuroticism (very emotionally sensitive) and introverts are two personality types more likely to experience negative thoughts research finds. In addition, being introverted is linked to spontaneously remembering more negative life events.

Does anything really help depression? ›

People who take their medications regularly and make some lifestyle changes can live long and healthy lives. These medications and lifestyle changes are treatments for diabetes. Depression is the same way. There's no cure for depression, but there are lots of effective treatments.

What vitamin is a natural antidepressant? ›

Vitamin B-3 and Vitamin B-9 can help people with depression because B vitamins help the brain manage moods. Vitamin D, melatonin and St. John's Wort are recommended for seasonal depression. Omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium and vitamin C may also help with depression.

What is the number one source of depression? ›

There's no single cause of depression. It can occur for a variety of reasons and it has many different triggers. For some people, an upsetting or stressful life event, such as bereavement, divorce, illness, redundancy and job or money worries, can be the cause. Different causes can often combine to trigger depression.

How can I make a sad person happy? ›

6 ways to cheer someone up over text
  1. Send them a playlist with some motivational tunes and their favorite songs.
  2. Share a funny video or meme.
  3. Send them a list of 10 things you appreciate about them.
  4. Remind them of a fun memory you share.
  5. Let them know that you're there to support them however they want.
Jul 28, 2022

How do you brighten someone's mood? ›

We could all use some cheering up - here are some ways to brighten your friends' days!
  1. Send a cute animal photo. ...
  2. Plan a game night with a group. ...
  3. Reach out first. ...
  4. Do an extra chore. ...
  5. Send a motivational text. ...
  6. Watch a movie together. ...
  7. If you live near them, plan a socially distant outing! ...
  8. Send a letter.
May 4, 2020

How do you make someone feel happy again? ›

There is sure to be something on this list that can turn any frown upside down.
  1. Ask Them If They Want Help. ...
  2. Simply Be There for Them. ...
  3. Take On a Creative Project Together. ...
  4. Leave Your Friend a Handwritten Note. ...
  5. Swing the Blues Away. ...
  6. Go Get Some Ice Cream. ...
  7. Do Whatever They Want to Do. ...
  8. Volunteer Together.
Mar 25, 2020

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

What to say to make someone cheer up? ›

  1. “Whenever you need to call, I'm here.” ...
  2. “I wish I could be there right now.” ...
  3. “You're still in my thoughts. ...
  4. “Your family is lucky to have you through all this.” ...
  5. “Maybe I can't be there, but there's definitely something I can do. ...
  6. “Hey, get well soon. ...
  7. “You're doing a great job with a major responsibility.
Nov 19, 2022

What do you 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"

How do you make someone feel better over text? ›

Tell them you are worried and want to help. Let them lead the conversation, and don't rush in to offer help or fix things. Simply be present for your friend. While your friend tells the story, text comments that make them feel validated like, "That's awful" or "I'm so sorry about that."

What are the three A's of coping? ›

When your stress level exceeds your ability to cope, you need to restore the balance by reducing the stressors or increasing your ability to cope or both. Try using one of the four A's: avoid, alter, accept or adapt.

What are 10 coping skills? ›

10 Ways to Cope with Chronic Stress
  • Re-balance Work and Home.
  • Build in Regular Exercise.
  • Eat Well and Limit Alcohol and Stimulants.
  • Connect with Supportive People.
  • Carve out Hobby Time.
  • Practice Meditation, Stress Reduction or Yoga.
  • Sleep Enough.
  • Bond with Your Pet.

What is coping checklist? ›

The Ways of Coping Checklist (WCCL) is a measure of coping based on Lazarus and Folkman's (1984) stress and coping theory. The WCCL contains 66 items that describe thoughts and acts that people use to deal with the internal and/or external demands of specific stressful encounters.

What are 4 examples of negative coping strategies? ›

Some of the most common unhealthy coping mechanisms are:
  • Avoiding issues. ...
  • Sleeping too much. ...
  • Excessive drug or alcohol use. ...
  • Impulsive spending. ...
  • Over or under eating.

What is good vs bad coping? ›

Unhealthy coping strategies often provide instant gratification or relief, but have long-term negative consequences. In contrast, healthy coping strategies don't always feel good in the moment, but they contribute to long-lasting positive outcomes.

Is avoidance a coping mechanism? ›

Avoidance coping involves cognitive and behavioral efforts oriented toward denying, minimizing, or otherwise avoiding dealing directly with stressful demands and is closely linked to distress and depression (Cronkite & Moos, 1995; Penley, Tomaka, & Wiebe, 2002).

What is the most effective coping strategy? ›

Relaxation. Engaging in relaxing activities, or practicing calming techniques, can help to manage stress and improve overall coping. Physical recreation. Regular exercise, such as running, or team sports, is a good way to handle the stress of given situation.

What are the 5 R's of coping with stress? ›

The Five R's are: Rethink, Relax, Release, Reduce, and Reorganize.

What is the most effective way to deal with depression? ›

How to cope with depression
  • Stay in touch. Don't withdraw from life. ...
  • Be more active. Take up some form of exercise. ...
  • Face your fears. Don't avoid the things you find difficult. ...
  • Don't drink too much alcohol. For some people, alcohol can become a problem. ...
  • Try to eat a healthy diet. ...
  • Have a routine.

How do you define someone who is depressed? ›

Feeling sad or having a depressed mood. Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed. Changes in appetite — weight loss or gain unrelated to dieting. Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much. Loss of energy or increased fatigue.

What are the 3 levels of depression? ›

You may be diagnosed with mild, moderate or severe depression. Your mental health professional may diagnose you with depression if these symptoms: happen most days.

How do you help someone heal emotionally? ›

11 ways to help someone struggling emotionally
  1. Validate their emotions. Letting someone know that they are not alone and being open to what they want to share is an important step. ...
  2. Just show up. ...
  3. Be a good listener. ...
  4. Keep things confidential. ...
  5. Keep the door open. ...
  6. Spend time with them. ...
  7. Offer praise. ...
  8. Offer practical help.
Sep 29, 2021

How do you comfort someone emotionally? ›

Examples of emotional support
  1. give the other their undivided attention.
  2. allow them to say what they feel without judgement.
  3. ask questions to clarify or better understand their experiences.
  4. verbally summarize or reflect on what they have said.
Apr 27, 2022

How do you talk to someone who is struggling mentally? ›

The Dos and Don'ts of Supporting Someone with Mental Illness
  1. DO Listen with an open mind. ...
  2. DON'T Make comments such as “You're fine” or “Cheer up” ...
  3. DO Ask Questions. ...
  4. DON'T Say you know how they feel if you don't. ...
  5. DO Encourage them to seek help. ...
  6. DON'T Question their medical decisions. ...
  7. DO Help out with daily tasks.
Aug 2, 2016

What are the 4 main causes of depression? ›

Causes - Clinical depression
  • Stressful events. Most people take time to come to terms with stressful events, such as bereavement or a relationship breakdown. ...
  • Personality. ...
  • Family history. ...
  • Giving birth. ...
  • Loneliness. ...
  • Alcohol and drugs. ...
  • Illness.

What are words for depressed? ›

synonyms for depressed
  • desolate.
  • despondent.
  • discouraged.
  • miserable.
  • morose.
  • not happy.
  • pessimistic.
  • sad.

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