How to help someone with depression
It can be hard knowing that your loved one is suffering from depression. Especially when it is causing problems in their everyday life. Fortunately, there are some things that you can do to help. These are discussed below.
It is a good idea to read as much information about depression as you can. It is possible that your loved one does not even know that they are suffering from depression. Understanding depression and how it works will help you to recognize the signs that your loved one needs help.
Help them to feel supported
It is common for people with depression to isolate themselves from others. Your attitude towards them can make a difference.
Show acceptance- They might be struggling with very negative thoughts about the world and themselves. For this reason, it is important to show acceptance and remind them that they are loved and valued no matter what.
Give validation- Their low mood might be something that is difficult for you to understand, but it is a real problem for them. Avoid saying things like “just snap out of it”. Acknowledge that this is a rough time for them with an attitude that is non-judgmental and non-critical.
Be persistent- Their lack of interest in doing things or staying in touch might be discouraging to you. It is good to remember that this is due to the symptoms of depression. Keep showing your support to them, even though they might seem uninterested.
Help them to find the right support
Encourage them to find support through a GP or therapist. If this involves your young child, you can contact these services. You might:
- Help them to search for a therapist
- Help them to book an appointment with a GP or therapist
- Offer support when they attend appointments (e.g. waiting in the waiting room or attending some sessions if you need to)
- Help them search for support groups or self-help resources
- Encourage them to keep attending sessions and to not give up
- Give them small reminders to do their homework assigned by the therapist
Know when to get urgent support
When your loved one is dealing with depression, it is good to keep an eye out for signs of self-harm or suicide. If you suspect that your loved one is at risk of hurting themself, you should get them immediate support.
You should contact a GP or the NHS urgent helpline.
Ask them what they need
They may or may not be able to tell you what they need, but it is always good to ask. They might let you know other ways that you can help them. This way you won’t be burdened with trying to figure it out on your own.
Encourage them to do fun activities
Help them to do more uplifting activities. For example, you might put on a funny movie or take them out to their favourite restaurant. This will allow them to experience positive feelings that will help to fight off the depression.
Encourage them to stay active
Encourage them to stay physically active. This is very important. This might include going for walks, jogs, cycling, going to the gym or a group exercise class. Any activity that gets them moving will help their body to release ‘feel good’ chemicals in the brain that will also fight off the depression.
Know what NOT to do
When a loved one is dealing with depression, it is good to be mindful of the things we say and the way we react, as this might affect them. For example, be mindful of:
Not taking the depressive symptoms personally- When a person is depressed, their lack of interest, motivation or irritability might be misunderstood and taken personally by others. Reacting negatively might make your loved one feel guilty and even make the depression worse.
Not calling them lazy- When a person is depressed, they usually experience a lack of motivation. It is important to avoid using hurtful words such as “lazy” to describe them, during this period. It is more useful for you to find ways to help them be more active every day (e.g. inviting them out on a walk).
Don’t tell them to “just think positive”- This is not helpful for a person struggling with depression. This could also make them feel guilty for not being able to think positively. It is more useful to simply listen and try to understand the ways that depression is really a problem for them.
Look after yourself too
It is extremely important for you to look after yourself. Whether you are a parent, family member or a friend, you will be in a better position to give help, as long as you are taking care of your own well-being too.
To read more about looking after yourself, see our page on self-care when helping someone else.
List of useful resources
To read information about helping someone with depression on the MIND website, you can click here to access the link.
To read information about helping someone with depression on the NHS website, you can click here to access the link.