How to Help Someone with Depression

Instructor: Elisha Madison

Elisha is a writer, editor, and aspiring novelist. She has a Master's degree in Ancient Celtic History & Mythology and another Masters in Museum Studies.

Having friends and loved ones with depression is a struggle, because you want to help but don't know how. This lesson discusses ways to help your loved ones, and how not to.


Depression is a struggle, because the people who are depressed can't find ways to adequately explain the feelings, and those of us that aren't can't find a way to help. Depression can affect everything: work, school, relationships, and even self-care. People will feel sad, numb, and very closed in. Everyone deals with it differently; but ultimately it is a burden for everyone involved, and especially the person with depression.

Here are some things to remember when you are working with or in a relationship with someone who is depressed. When they become depressed, don't blame yourself! You are not the cause, and putting the responsibility of the negative feelings on yourself does not help anyone. Also remember it is not their fault either, depression is a medical issue, and not just in the person's head. They can't just get over it.

The positive in all of this is that depression can be treated by doctors. Not all treatments work, and none of them are perfect, but they can aid in helping someone feel better and be able to lead a normal life. In addition to medication, what are some other things that you can do to help?

How To Help Someone With Depression

You are not alone

There are many things people can do to help others that are depressed. Not all of them are perfect in every case, but they will still show that person that you care.

  • Be an ear - People with depression may need someone to talk to about their feelings. Acknowledge them and don't doubt their feelings, just listen and understand. This is huge for anyone who needs someone to talk to.
  • Assist in daily activities - Help with daily activities, like going to get dry cleaning, cleaning their house, or other helpful acts. These small acts may not be acknowledged right away, but it will take the pressure off of the depressed person for awhile.
  • Medical attention - If the depressed person does not have a doctor or a regimen for their medical needs, it would be good to sit down and talk to them about seeking help. If they resist, don't push, but make sure others in that person's life offer up options for medical assistance. After constant conversation, they may eventually decide to take that step.
  • Learn that person's triggers and symptoms - As an outside person, you may be able to tell when depression is coming on before it does. If you can, perhaps with medication and some attention to the situation, you can avoid the depression from spiraling down. Additionally, if you know what is a stressor for their depression, then you can avoid those, which will help both of you.
  • Small steps - Help the depressed person in your life make small steps to reach when they are depressed. Perhaps taking a shower, or eating dinner with you. Each little step is a small victory and should be treated as such.
  • Take care of yourself - Many people will put their own mental and physical well being at risk to help their depressed loved one. Do not do this, being unhealthy yourself helps no one. Absolutely take time for yourself; it's important. Being near a depressed person for a long period of time can actually rub off, because you will start feeling oppressed by their behavior. It is not their fault, but neither is it yours if you need time to breathe and refresh.

Just remember that depression is a struggle, but if you can help and validate a person's feelings, it will go a long way in creating the trust needed to really help someone with depression.

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