How to Support Someone with Depression: 6 Ways to Help (2023)

We’re social, empathic beings by nature. When someone we love is living with depression, it’s natural to want to reach out and help them.

We hate to see them struggle and we know how it feels to have our world fall apart, in one way or another. But because depression is so complex, it can be difficult to know exactly where to start.

It can get even more tricky when someone we care about is showing signs of serious distress, and we’re not sure how to navigate a crisis. We may be afraid to do something wrong or somehow make things even worse.

Take heart. You are not alone, and there are many ways you can help. It’s possible not only to support someone during a difficult time, but to make sure you’re taking care of yourself, too.

This article will explain common symptoms of depression, warning signs, and how to be there for someone dealing with depression, all while keeping your own mental health in check.

At least 4.7% of U.S. adults live with depression, according to 2019 statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And, according to a 2021 Mental Health America report, the number of people seeking mental health support skyrocketed amid the global pandemic.

It’s important to know upfront that depression is a unique experience for each individual. Here are some symptoms of depression you might recognize in your loved one:

  • feeling sadness or low spirits
  • looking fatigued or appearing “shut down”
  • sleeping more, or less, than normal
  • having fluctuations in appetite
  • experiencing weight fluctuations
  • expressing guilt, shame, helplessness, or hopelessness
  • being pessimistic about the future
  • skipping activities or quality time together
  • being more reclusive or less communicative
  • having difficulty focusing in conversation or seeming distracted
  • having trouble remembering things
  • being quicker to anger or more irritable than usual
  • losing interest in hobbies or activities
  • discussing death or self-harm
  • experiencing physical symptoms, like headaches or an upset stomach

As you can see, there’s a lot going on there. And there’s no one cause of depression — it could stem from a combination of many factors, like genetic predisposition, personal history, trauma, substance use, major life changes, work stress, family problems, or even an underlying health concern.

In the next sections, we’ll take a look at some key ways you can support a loved one who’s dealing with depression.

Depression can be an isolating experience for some. One of the best things you can do is to let someone know they’re not alone and be open to what they want to share.

(Video) 15 Ways to Support Someone with Depression

It doesn’t have to be complicated, either. Simply listen to what they’re going through. Do not try to fix their problems, give unsolicited advice, or judge their feelings. It’s not something they can just “get over” or “snap out of.” If they could, they would’ve done it already.

If you can relate, share your own experience and what you learned from it. Many people just want to be understood and know that someone cares.

You can also show them this list of 19 quotes about depression, so they know they’re not alone.

When someone with depression decides to seek help, it can be an overwhelming experience. There are doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists, helplines, forums, and so much more. Sometimes it’s easier to just close the laptop and push it off for another day.

You can help ease the burden by offering to look up support. Here are some helpful websites:

If they might consider online therapy, you could look into trying BetterHelp or TalkSpace, or check out our guide to online therapy services.

Once your loved one is actively in treatment, encourage them to keep going. If they talk about wanting to quit, or stop taking medications, suggest that they discuss it with a mental health professional first. You might want to tell them how much of a positive difference you’ve seen in them already.

For those who live with depression, even small tasks, like brushing teeth or cleaning up the kitchen, may drain emotional bandwidth. For this reason, offering to help with something seemingly small can make a huge difference in someone’s day.

If you have capacity, offer to start a load of laundry, walk the dog, watch the kids for a couple of hours, or drive them to the store.

One symptom that’s common with depression is a reduced ability to get things done, which means things like text messages, e-mails, or social invitations can pile up.

On top of that, depression can cause people to feel guilt or shame about not being able to “get it together.” These feelings could make someone less likely to reach out to you for help.

For now, be the one to extend an invitation or two; it will come back around eventually. Let your loved one know that you’re thinking of them and would love to spend time together, if and when they feel up for it.

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

Research has shown that several activities can improve mood, including yoga, swimming, getting out in nature, or making art. Suggest one of these activities to do together, if your loved one feels up for it.

Researchers have long suggested that pets could improve our mental health. They reduce stress, decrease loneliness, and provide a cocktail of feel-good neurochemicals when we snuggle up with them. Your loved one may feel better just being around Fido, so bring him along.

You can also offer to help them find out information about adopting a companion of their own and registering a pet as an Emotional Support Animal.

Warning signs to look out for

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

When someone lives with depression, it may increase their risk of self-harm or suicide. Recent statistics show that 12 million people per year think about suicide, and 1.4 million people attempt suicide in the United States alone.

Some warning signs include:

  • frequent or rapid mood changes
  • increased drinking or use of drugs
  • internet searches about suicide
  • giving away belongings
  • purchasing a weapon
  • talking about a suicide plan
  • an emotional goodbye or interactions feeling “final”
  • reclusive behavior or pushing loved ones away

If you see these signs, stay calm and ask your loved one if they are having suicidal thoughts. You may worry that this could give them ideas, but to the contrary, experts agree that it’s useful to discuss it openly.

If your friend or family member works with a psychiatrist or therapist, encourage them to reach out on the phone as soon as possible, with you by their side.

If you suspect that your loved one may attempt suicide, call 911 or drive them to the nearest emergency room. Stay with them until trained professionals can intervene. While you’re waiting, make sure they do not have access to any weapons or drugs.

Suicide prevention

If you’re in the United States and need help right now, text “NAMI” to 741741 or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.

If you’re outside the United States, find your country’s suicide prevention hotline through the International Association for Suicide Prevention.

Look after yourself, too

(Video) Helping Someone with Depression

For some, learning how to support someone with depression can be intense. It’s important to make sure you’re carving out time for your own self-care and well-being on a regular basis. Know what your “cup-fillers” are and keep doing them.

Mark your calendar

Pencil in a few hours with yourself at least once a week, and honor it the same way you would with a work commitment. This could be anything from a restorative yoga class to a massage or a Netflix movie you’ve been dying to watch.

Start a journal

This is a great place to process emotions that come up around depression but wouldn’t necessarily be useful to say out loud to someone in pain.

It’s normal to feel frustrated, exhausted, angry, confused, hurt, and any number of other emotions. Your journal can hold space for all of these thoughts, without judgment. If you’re not sure where to start, check out our guide to journal prompts.

Set boundaries

Know your limits and don’t overextend. When you notice your energy starting to wane, it’s time to take some space. It’s not your job to “fix” the person; release yourself of that responsibility.

For example, after a certain time, let your friend or family member know that you’ll need to turn off your phone and get some rest, unless it’s a life-threatening emergency. Reassure them that you’ll be available again tomorrow, or whenever works for you.

Learn about depression

Read this article about what to say, and what not to say, to someone with depression.

The more you know, the less surprised you’ll be as things come up. This will also help you learn not to take things personally if your loved one cancels plans or gets irritable with you. You’ll know it’s not you; it’s just a symptom of depression. They still care about you.

Find your own support

When someone you love has depression, it can take quite a toll. You might start to feel as though you may have depression yourself. A therapist can help you work through challenges and come up with a sustainable game plan for the long term.

A support group is also a great place to process emotions and meet like-minded people who understand what you’re going through. Find a free, confidential NAMI family support in your area.

Depression can be difficult to navigate all around — not only for the person living with it, but for those who are watching someone go through it. Here are some additional resources to dive into:

If you only take away one thing, remember this: there is hope. Depression is treatable, and there are new resources cropping up all the time. Give your loved one a squeeze and reassure them it’s going to be alright — and, hey, maybe do that for yourself, too.


What can we do to help people 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 some self help 5 strategies that may help people with their depression? ›

Here are 5 self-help strategies for depression:
  • Exercise. Both aerobic exercise like walking or jogging and anaerobic exercise like weight lifting can help alleviate symptoms of depression.
  • Relaxation training. ...
  • Light therapy. ...
  • Self-help books based on cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). ...
  • Computerized therapy.
Jul 2, 2018

How can you help someone 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

How do you help someone who is struggling emotionally? ›

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 are the 6 tips to improve mental health? ›

Trying these things could help you feel more positive and able to get the most out of life.
  1. Connect with other people. Good relationships are important for your mental wellbeing. ...
  2. Be physically active. ...
  3. Learn new skills. ...
  4. Give to others. ...
  5. Pay attention to the present moment (mindfulness)

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.

What are the 6 anxiety reducing tips? ›

6 Tips for Dealing with Anxiety
  • If you have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, know that you are not alone. Anxiety affects 40 million adults in the U.S., according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. ...
  • Eat a Nutritious Diet. ...
  • Get Moving. ...
  • Practice Positive Self-Talk. ...
  • Get More Sleep. ...
  • Distract Yourself.
Sep 26, 2017

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 the main strategies to support good mental health? ›

Tips for improving your mental wellbeing
  • Relax and reduce stress.
  • Find ways to learn and be creative.
  • Spend time in nature.
  • Connect with others.
  • Look after your physical health.
  • Try to get enough sleep.

How do you make someone mentally feel better? ›

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 truly help someone? ›

Here's an extremely incomplete list, just to get you thinking — I'm sure you can come up with thousands more if you think about it.
  1. Smile and be friendly. ...
  2. Call a charity to volunteer. ...
  3. Donate something you don't use. ...
  4. Make a donation. ...
  5. Redirect gifts. ...
  6. Stop to help. ...
  7. Teach. ...
  8. Comfort someone in grief.

What do you say to support someone? ›

  • “You got this.”
  • “Good luck today! ...
  • “Sending major good vibes your way.”
  • “I know this won't be easy, but I also know you've got what it takes to get through it.”
  • “Hope you're doing awesome!”
  • “Time to go kick cancer's ass!”
  • “Keep on keeping on!”
Aug 25, 2022

What are the 7 types of support? ›

Understanding the Different Types of Social Support
  • Emotional Support. ...
  • Informational Support. ...
  • Tangible Support. ...
  • Self-esteem or Affirmational Support. ...
  • Belonging Support.
Apr 27, 2020

How do you lift someone up emotionally? ›

How to Cheer Someone Up: 51 Ways to Make a Friend Smile
  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 are 7 behaviors for improving mental health? ›

In my work as a psychiatrist and researcher, I have identified seven behaviors that contribute to quality mental health: activity, defense mechanisms, social connection, regulation, human specific cognition, self-acceptance and adaptability.

What are the 12 steps to positive mental health? ›

They include:
  • keeping physically active.
  • eating well.
  • drinking in moderation.
  • valuing yourself and others.
  • talking about your feelings.
  • keeping in touch with friends and loved ones.
  • caring for others.
  • getting involved and making a contribution.
Nov 10, 2008

What are the 7 components of good mental health? ›

Good mental health checklist
  • you are confident when faced with new situations or people.
  • you feel optimistic.
  • you do not always blame yourself.
  • you set goals.
  • you feel good about yourself.
  • you have good self esteem.

What are the big 5 ideas to assist with anxiety? ›

5 Ways To Help With Anxiety
  • Breathe from your belly. ...
  • Move your body. ...
  • Turn up the music. ...
  • Remind yourself: This is temporary. ...
  • Be self-compassionate.

What is the 5 5 5 rule for anxiety? ›

First, you may want to start with a simple deep breathing exercise called the 5-5-5 method. To do this, you breathe in for 5 seconds, hold your breath for 5 seconds, and then breathe out for 5 seconds. You can continue this process until your thoughts slow down or you notice some relief.

What is the first line of defense for depression? ›

Friends, and often colleagues, are the first line of defense in the fight against depression. By understanding the signs and symptoms of depression, friends, and often colleagues can become the first line of defense in the fight against depression.

What are the 3 C's of anxiety? ›

It is based on the three "C's" of recovery calm your body, correct your thinking, and confront your fears.

What is the 54321 coping mechanism for anxiety? ›

One of the most common grounding techniques is the “54321” exercise. It goes like this: Start with deep breathing. Breathe in for 5 seconds, hold the breath for 5 seconds, and breathe out for 5 seconds.

How do you comfort someone with anxiety? ›

gently let them know that you think they might be having a panic attack and that you are there for them. encourage them to breathe slowly and deeply – it can help to do something structured or repetitive they can focus on, such as counting out loud, or asking them to watch while you gently raise your arm up and down.

How do you motivate someone who feels down? ›

What else can I do to support them?
  1. Listen to them. Use active listening. ...
  2. Stay in touch. Call, text, or visit with them in person regularly if you can. ...
  3. Praise them. ...
  4. Use empathetic body language. ...
  5. Tell them what they mean to you. ...
  6. Support them in seeking help. ...
  7. Avoid toxic positivity.

What are 6 things that can influence depression in someone? ›

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.

How do people become stable with depression? ›

Be sure to:
  1. Eat nutritious meals.
  2. Avoid smoking and vaping-- see Cessation Help.
  3. Drink plenty of water.
  4. Exercise, which helps decrease depression and anxiety and improve moods.
  5. Get enough sleep. Researchers believe that lack of sleep contributes to a high rate of depression in college students.

What are the 5 ways to well being? ›

Evidence suggests there are 5 steps you can take to help improve your mental health and wellbeing, these are connect, be active, take notice, keep learning and give.

What are two strategies for supporting someone with a mental health problem? ›

There are some general strategies that you can use to help:
  • Listen without making judgements and concentrate on their needs at that moment.
  • Ask them what would help them.
  • Reassure and signpost to practical information or resources.
  • Avoid confrontation.
  • Ask if there is someone they would like you to contact.

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.

What are the 7 forms of depression? ›

7 Common Types of Depression
  • Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) ...
  • Persistent Depressive Disorder (PDD) ...
  • Bipolar Disorder. ...
  • Postpartum Depression (PPD) ...
  • Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) ...
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) ...
  • Atypical Depression.

What are the 12 steps of depressed anonymous? ›

The 12 steps for depression and other emotional struggles include:
  • Admitting powerlessness over emotions.
  • Acknowledging a higher power.
  • Turning one's life over to that higher power.
  • Taking a moral inventory.
  • Admitting personal wrongs.
  • Acknowledging the ability of the higher power to remedy character defects.
Nov 15, 2022

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 are the 6 types of depression? ›

Here, we break down the six most common forms of depression, and explain their more typical treatment options:
  • Major depressive disorder. ...
  • Persistent depressive disorder. ...
  • Psychotic depression. ...
  • Seasonal affective disorder. ...
  • Bipolar depression. ...
  • Postnatal depression.
Dec 4, 2018

What are the four D's of depression? ›

The Four Ds o en associated with mental health conditions prevalent among the elderly are: dementia, depression, delirium and delusion. Failure to di erentiate between these four conditions can have serious consequences. The incidence of depression rises with age.

What are 6 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 the 6 areas of mental health? ›

NWI promotes Six Dimensions of Wellness: Emotional, Physical, Intellectual, Occupational, Spiritual, and Social.

What are the 6 types of mental health? ›

What are the types of mental illness?
  • mood disorders (such as depression or bipolar disorder)
  • anxiety disorders.
  • personality disorders.
  • psychotic disorders (such as schizophrenia)
  • eating disorders.
  • trauma-related disorders (such as post-traumatic stress disorder)
  • substance abuse disorders.

What helpful is depression? ›

“Depression often gives people the time and desire to reflect more deeply about their lives and life path, providing them an opportunity to make some positive changes in their lives,” Plante adds. “Hopefully, they'll find a way to make important changes in their lives that will serve them better over time.”

How do you overcome depression and overthinking? ›

These tips can help you move in the right direction.
  1. Step back and look at how you're responding. ...
  2. Find a distraction. ...
  3. Take a deep breath. ...
  4. Meditate. ...
  5. Look at the bigger picture. ...
  6. Do something nice for someone else. ...
  7. Recognize automatic negative thoughts (ANTs) ...
  8. Acknowledge your successes.

How to improve mental health? ›

Tips for improving your mental wellbeing
  1. Relax and reduce stress.
  2. Find ways to learn and be creative.
  3. Spend time in nature.
  4. Connect with others.
  5. Look after your physical health.
  6. Try to get enough sleep.


1. How to Help Someone with Depression
2. 6 Ways to Process your Feelings in Writing: How to Journal for Anxiety and Depression
(Therapy in a Nutshell)
(Improvement Pill)
4. Depression Self Help: 6 Tips to Treat and Manage Depression with CBT
(Self-Help Toons)
5. How to Help Someone with Depression - What Actually Helped Me!
(Scott Ste Marie)
6. 3 Ways to Support Someone With Depression
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