How Do I Help a Loved One or Friend Who Is Depressed?

Reviewed May 11, 2021

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Summary

  • Avoid adding shame and blame to depression.
  • Keep your expectations reasonable.
  • Support healthy habits.

Even though depression is common and very serious, lots of people who have it do not get help. If you know someone who is depressed, you can help them get on the path to recovery. Even if they are already getting help, you can give support that will make their recovery easier.

Here are some things to think about:

Avoid adding shame and blame to depression. When you feel ashamed, it’s harder to ask for help. Many depressed people feel like failures. They blame themselves for feeling sad. They think it is their fault that they are depressed. Sometimes a person makes bad choices that end up making life much more stressful. There are ways in which a person’s behavior can increase depression. But it is important, when helping someone who is depressed, to avoid adding shame to the depression.

Support your friend in getting the right kind of help. Everyone can have a bad day, or a bad week, but when low mood and other signs of depression persist, do not look the other way and hope for things to get better on their own. Help is available from many sources. Your friend might want to start with their primary care clinician, or a psychiatrist, if possible. Do not buy into the idea that everything will be alright without getting the right kind of help—too often that is not true.

Keep your expectations reasonable. When your loved one is depressed, they will not feel like doing everything they used to enjoy. They might get tired easily, or lose interest, or not have fun doing things that you used to like doing together. While they are depressed, they will not get as much pleasure out of a good meal, a night out together, intimacy or a good conversation.

Try not to get too disappointed, or to expect too much while the depression is bad. On the other hand, keep in mind that a depressed person often enjoys things more than they thought they would. With some encouragement and cheerleading, you can still do things together. In fact, it is a very good idea to try. A depressed person often avoids doing unnecessary things like having fun, and you can help out by making sure to arrange fun activities that are not too demanding.

Support healthy habits. Your depressed friend is probably neglecting themself in lots of ways. You can help by encouraging them to take good care of themself. Avoid being a nag or a pest about it, but praise your friend when they make the effort to get enough sleep, eat a healthy meal, exercise, get to the doctor or counselor, or make time to enjoy being with the people who care about them. If they are not careful about taking their medications because of how bad they feel, they will not benefit from taking them.

Let them know that sticking to good health habits, including taking their medicine as they are supposed to, is important. Reducing stress is another way that your friend can help themself. Encourage and support them in finding ways to make their life simpler and less stressful.

Support helpful treatment. If your loved one needs treatment and has found someone to provide counseling, medications or both, your encouragement is important. Participating in counseling or taking medications for depression can be very helpful, but these treatments take time to work. You have to stick with them long enough. You have to get to the counseling sessions, and you have to take the medicines as you are supposed to do.

If there are problems such as feeling that the therapist is not helping or that the medicines are causing bad side effects, it is important to let the person treating the depressed person know. You can help your depressed friend get the most benefit from treatment by encouraging them to let others know if they are not getting enough help, or the right kind of help, from what they are doing.

Your loved one or friend may not be so much fun to be with when depressed, but do not give up. Your support and help can really make a difference in helping them recover.

By James M. Ellison, M.D., M.P.H.

Summary

  • Avoid adding shame and blame to depression.
  • Keep your expectations reasonable.
  • Support healthy habits.

Even though depression is common and very serious, lots of people who have it do not get help. If you know someone who is depressed, you can help them get on the path to recovery. Even if they are already getting help, you can give support that will make their recovery easier.

Here are some things to think about:

Avoid adding shame and blame to depression. When you feel ashamed, it’s harder to ask for help. Many depressed people feel like failures. They blame themselves for feeling sad. They think it is their fault that they are depressed. Sometimes a person makes bad choices that end up making life much more stressful. There are ways in which a person’s behavior can increase depression. But it is important, when helping someone who is depressed, to avoid adding shame to the depression.

Support your friend in getting the right kind of help. Everyone can have a bad day, or a bad week, but when low mood and other signs of depression persist, do not look the other way and hope for things to get better on their own. Help is available from many sources. Your friend might want to start with their primary care clinician, or a psychiatrist, if possible. Do not buy into the idea that everything will be alright without getting the right kind of help—too often that is not true.

Keep your expectations reasonable. When your loved one is depressed, they will not feel like doing everything they used to enjoy. They might get tired easily, or lose interest, or not have fun doing things that you used to like doing together. While they are depressed, they will not get as much pleasure out of a good meal, a night out together, intimacy or a good conversation.

Try not to get too disappointed, or to expect too much while the depression is bad. On the other hand, keep in mind that a depressed person often enjoys things more than they thought they would. With some encouragement and cheerleading, you can still do things together. In fact, it is a very good idea to try. A depressed person often avoids doing unnecessary things like having fun, and you can help out by making sure to arrange fun activities that are not too demanding.

Support healthy habits. Your depressed friend is probably neglecting themself in lots of ways. You can help by encouraging them to take good care of themself. Avoid being a nag or a pest about it, but praise your friend when they make the effort to get enough sleep, eat a healthy meal, exercise, get to the doctor or counselor, or make time to enjoy being with the people who care about them. If they are not careful about taking their medications because of how bad they feel, they will not benefit from taking them.

Let them know that sticking to good health habits, including taking their medicine as they are supposed to, is important. Reducing stress is another way that your friend can help themself. Encourage and support them in finding ways to make their life simpler and less stressful.

Support helpful treatment. If your loved one needs treatment and has found someone to provide counseling, medications or both, your encouragement is important. Participating in counseling or taking medications for depression can be very helpful, but these treatments take time to work. You have to stick with them long enough. You have to get to the counseling sessions, and you have to take the medicines as you are supposed to do.

If there are problems such as feeling that the therapist is not helping or that the medicines are causing bad side effects, it is important to let the person treating the depressed person know. You can help your depressed friend get the most benefit from treatment by encouraging them to let others know if they are not getting enough help, or the right kind of help, from what they are doing.

Your loved one or friend may not be so much fun to be with when depressed, but do not give up. Your support and help can really make a difference in helping them recover.

By James M. Ellison, M.D., M.P.H.

Summary

  • Avoid adding shame and blame to depression.
  • Keep your expectations reasonable.
  • Support healthy habits.

Even though depression is common and very serious, lots of people who have it do not get help. If you know someone who is depressed, you can help them get on the path to recovery. Even if they are already getting help, you can give support that will make their recovery easier.

Here are some things to think about:

Avoid adding shame and blame to depression. When you feel ashamed, it’s harder to ask for help. Many depressed people feel like failures. They blame themselves for feeling sad. They think it is their fault that they are depressed. Sometimes a person makes bad choices that end up making life much more stressful. There are ways in which a person’s behavior can increase depression. But it is important, when helping someone who is depressed, to avoid adding shame to the depression.

Support your friend in getting the right kind of help. Everyone can have a bad day, or a bad week, but when low mood and other signs of depression persist, do not look the other way and hope for things to get better on their own. Help is available from many sources. Your friend might want to start with their primary care clinician, or a psychiatrist, if possible. Do not buy into the idea that everything will be alright without getting the right kind of help—too often that is not true.

Keep your expectations reasonable. When your loved one is depressed, they will not feel like doing everything they used to enjoy. They might get tired easily, or lose interest, or not have fun doing things that you used to like doing together. While they are depressed, they will not get as much pleasure out of a good meal, a night out together, intimacy or a good conversation.

Try not to get too disappointed, or to expect too much while the depression is bad. On the other hand, keep in mind that a depressed person often enjoys things more than they thought they would. With some encouragement and cheerleading, you can still do things together. In fact, it is a very good idea to try. A depressed person often avoids doing unnecessary things like having fun, and you can help out by making sure to arrange fun activities that are not too demanding.

Support healthy habits. Your depressed friend is probably neglecting themself in lots of ways. You can help by encouraging them to take good care of themself. Avoid being a nag or a pest about it, but praise your friend when they make the effort to get enough sleep, eat a healthy meal, exercise, get to the doctor or counselor, or make time to enjoy being with the people who care about them. If they are not careful about taking their medications because of how bad they feel, they will not benefit from taking them.

Let them know that sticking to good health habits, including taking their medicine as they are supposed to, is important. Reducing stress is another way that your friend can help themself. Encourage and support them in finding ways to make their life simpler and less stressful.

Support helpful treatment. If your loved one needs treatment and has found someone to provide counseling, medications or both, your encouragement is important. Participating in counseling or taking medications for depression can be very helpful, but these treatments take time to work. You have to stick with them long enough. You have to get to the counseling sessions, and you have to take the medicines as you are supposed to do.

If there are problems such as feeling that the therapist is not helping or that the medicines are causing bad side effects, it is important to let the person treating the depressed person know. You can help your depressed friend get the most benefit from treatment by encouraging them to let others know if they are not getting enough help, or the right kind of help, from what they are doing.

Your loved one or friend may not be so much fun to be with when depressed, but do not give up. Your support and help can really make a difference in helping them recover.

By James M. Ellison, M.D., M.P.H.

The information provided on the Achieve Solutions site, including, but not limited to, articles, assessments, and other general information, is for informational purposes only and should not be treated as medical, health care, psychiatric, psychological, or behavioral health care advice. Nothing contained on the Achieve Solutions site is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment or as a substitute for consultation with a qualified health care professional. Please direct questions regarding the operation of the Achieve Solutions site to Web Feedback. If you have concerns about your health, please contact your health care provider.  ©2019 Beacon Health Options, Inc.

 

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