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How To Help A Friend With Depression

This question actually comes up a lot. The number of cases of clinical depression are increasing each year among citizens according to ScienceDaily, which is why it is imperative for us to know how to help a friend with depression.

I am going to discuss here:

  • Signs of depression you should look out for
  • Do’s and Don’ts when helping a friend with depression
  • Self-care for yourself when helping a friend with depression 

Signs that your friend may have depression

It may be difficult to assess if your friend or family member has depression. First of all, they may have it and have no plans of ever discussing their mental illness. In our society, there seems to be a stigma revolving around mental illness. People seem to believe that you are just sad for a certain time and that you just need to snap out of it as it is not really an illness. Well, those people are majorly wrong! Depression is a medical illness. It should be treated the same as any physical illness: with care, help, and attention.



Because of this, it is difficult for those with depression and other mental disorders to admit their illness and even more difficult to open up about it. There are countless cases each year where men and women become clinically depressed and yet do not seek proper attention. We need to fix this. How will the person get better if there is not help or care coming their way?


Signs to look out for:

  • The person has no motivation or dedication to do anything (school, exercise, socialize, hobbies etc.)
  • The person has lost their appetite.
  • The person’s sleep schedule fluctuates and is unhealthy.
  • The person is often complaining about life.
    • Thoughts or words like “life is unfair” “what is the point?” “I am done with everything” “nothing matters anymore” “I don’t care to live”.
  • The person is isolating themselves from family and friends – they might prefer to always be alone or constantly stay in one place (ie. their bedroom).
  • The person is becoming anti-social and likely hating social situations.
  • The person has a dislike of going out.
  • The person generally feels lost and out of it sometimes.
  • The person has turned to drugs or alcohol more often.
  • The person has a negative out-look on life and finds it hard to think or act positively.
  • The person generally doesn’t care about anything anymore.
  • The person maybe experiencing unusual headaches.
  • The person may have lashed out in anger recently.
  • The person has mentioned suicide (implicitly or explicitly). 

There are more signs to look out for if someone may be depressed but I believe these are the main ones to look out for. It is important to realize that this person is in a very fragile state and needs proper attention. We need to understand that depression is a very serious condition.

Another thing to realize is that there is not a set cause of depression. This mental illness affects everyone from different gender, sexuality, race, economic standpoint, and age. There are multiple factors that vary from person to person. Depression can stem from numerous causes including biology (genetics), health (hormones, other illness, stress), brain chemistry, and environment.

There are actions we can take to help our friends and loved-ones with depression. We have their best interest at heart and it is important for them to realize this. That being said, there also things you do not want to say or do when trying to help someone with depression. It may be difficult to talk to someone with depression. You may not know what to say, how to start, how to be supportive in fear of possibly being insulting, rude, or ignorant. This is okay. If you are unsure how to be supportive, then just being a compassionate listener is one of the best things you can do. That helps. Listening is key.


Don’ts:

  • Do not try to just fix someone’s depression. Do not believe they can easily be cured. Depression is in the hands of the person and what we can do is offer help. You are not to blame for their depression.
  • Do not lie to someone else about someone’s depression. Do not make excuses for this person. Talk positively towards others and do not promote the stigma. This may prevent the person from seeking proper treatment.
  • Do not interrupt this person. Let them speak. This is their time when you are talking to them. Be all ears and offer your respectful, calm insight when possible.
  • Do not say words like “Be tough and get over it.” or “Just think positively.” or “Just snap out of it.”
  • Do not overwhelm this person to the point where you may find yourself in an argument because you have tried offering heavy support.
  • Do not get frustrated with this person if they have a lack of positivity or never want to do anything.
  • Do not push for clinical support (therapist, medication) if this person is clearly not ready.
  • Do not act like you know the exact cure. Yes, depression is curable but there are many steps one must take. Some remedies may work for others while some remedies may not work.
  • Do not infer why or how your friend/family member is depressed.
  • Do not be negative and tell them how their depression is affecting you. This will only make the situation a lot worse.
  • Do not drag them into situations that you may think will help. (Going out, socializing, mingling) 

Do’s:

  • Have a warm, compassionate relationship with this person free from any hostility or negativity.
  • Listen, listen, listen.
  • Ask simple questions like, “When did you start to feel like this?” “Did something happen that might have triggered it?” “How can I offer you support?” “What do you think is the best way to approach or help beat your depression?”
  • Offer words of encouragement and hope. Tell them that depression is extremely common and it is okay not to be okay.
  • Let them know you are always there when they need someone.
  • Tell them you care and want to help. Let them know their life means everything to you.
  • Let them know you love them and want to see them be happy and successful.
  • Learn the symptoms and causes of depression.
  • Be open and be open-minded.
  • Ask them how they feel and to describe it.
  • Take them seriously as you would with someone who has cancer or another physical illness.
  • Inform them about possible support groups but only when they are ready. Support groups such as counseling. If they are not ready to open up face to face, then inform them about online services such as forums, email, or other online counseling services.
  • If the situation is bad and you do not know what to do or how they will take it if you encourage them to see a doctor, then again, let them know you are always available to talk. You can work together and when they are ready to take the next step, let them know it is always open.
  • Discuss simple steps. Eating healthy, exercising, natural supplements, new hobbies, a calm vacation, meditation, yoga etc. Look at my activities and advice/tips for more ideas.
  • Be close to them. They may always reject offers of going out or doing something fun, but invite them anyways. Let them know they are always welcomed.
  • Inform this person that help is always out there. Countless help. The world and society is changing – having a better, positive outlook on mental illness. We have their best interest at heart.



Overall, depression is a widely varying disorder and may affect everyone differently depending on their situation and what type they may have considering there are nine different types of depression. It sometimes may be a hit or miss, on-days and off-days, or cases where people are majorly depressed (MDD). Be there to listen and always be a compassionate and supportive friend to those with depression. 


Your Self-Care:

Trying to be supportive or offering help to those with depression may be emotionally and physically draining. That is okay. Those who try to help their loved ones with cancer or another physical illness fall into the same boat. You are not to blame for anyone else’s illness. Know that. It is in their hands.

You may find yourself frustrated, upset, or exhausted when trying to help. Please do not let these self-feelings become aware to those with the mental illness. However, it is extremely important for you to take appropriate measures for your own health when trying to support someone with a mental illness.

  • Know your limits. If you feel emotionally drained, take a break. Look at your own stress levels and cope with them. Then, when the time is right, offer your support again.
  • Make time for yourself. Relax. Do the things you like. Do not use all of your own energy and time trying to help this person. Still focus on you. Do not let helping this person affect your life in a negative way. Keep up your daily routine.
  • Set your own boundaries. If you are uncomfortable doing something in the means of support, then don’t do it. Find another way or another solution. It is important to not cross their line when trying to help but also not crossing your own line.
  • If you find your own support is becoming overwhelming to your own health, then find other support. Discuss with others who are trustworthy how you may help if you are overwhelmed or confused. Do not let the person that has depression know you are talking to someone else for ways to help them. Make sure it is confidential.
  • Love yourself, love them. You are truly trying your best. Support is one of the best things that someone can offer to one dealing with a mental illness. You are doing great, know that!

I hope this information has helped. Again, depression is a disease of wilderness. It works differently and varies from person to person. I am extremely grateful mental illness is receiving more positive attention in today’s society as it should. I have had years experience with both depression and anxiety and live to help those with similar struggles. Let’s end the stigma together and offer our support to those in need.

If you have any other input (do’s, don’ts, advice, activities etc.) please I would love to hear them.

If you have any questions, concerns, comments, or even want to connect, leave me a comment below.

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Robert Sherwood

34 Comments

  1. This is a great article with so many great points. I believe educating people is so important. I have lost two friends to suicide and honestly I didnt recognize anything. Sometimes its difficult but quite often there are a lot of signs and symptoms. As friends yes we need to be there but we also cant blame ourselves. My friends were very dear to me and I wish they were still here. Its important for anyone and everyone to read this site and many others like it.

    In my eyes this is a work of art.

    Thank you for the great work.

    • So glad I could help Dale. So sorry to hear about your losses. Yes, suicide is difficult to prevent if you are unsure of any motive to begin with. Depression and suicide is extremely common in today’s society. That is why it is so important to end the stigma revolving around mental illness. As friends, we can offer our support and help. Always remember, you are not to blame. Let’s keep a look out for a friends and family everyone. Mental illness is very common and you may never know what someone is going through. Be kind always. Thank you for reaching out Dale and I wish you all the best.

  2. Rob,
    Very well done sir. My wife has combatted depression for many years. When I first encountered it I must say I did a lot of things that you mention on your don’t list. I wish I would have had this article available to me years ago. The information you have provided is bang on…..great job.
    I gotta ask though, because of your insight, is this something you struggle with personally or someone you know?
    Thanks so much for this

    • Thank you Lance. Yes, sometimes we think we are doing or saying the right things to people with depression when it completely is the wrong thing. It is okay. We learn something everyday and I am happy you know now. Depression and anxiety was something I struggled with personally for years actually. Sometimes, it comes in wave-lengths still but for the most part I do believe I am on the path to greater happiness. I changed my life-style simple and day by day. By incorporating beneficial activities, exercise, a proper diet, and natural supplements, I believe this was my change of mind-set. You’re very welcome Lance and I am always happy to help.

  3. I do have some friends with depression. Some are chronical. They just don’t have any energy to do anything because of the negative emotion overwhelms them. Although I love them so much, sometimes I get frustrated. It is a great article for me to remind me what to do for them. Also, it is very important to take care of ourselves when dealing with friends with depression because you start feeling depressed… What I normally do is when I feel really negative charge is upon me, I will shake off that energy. You can get attached negative energy easily if we don’t watch out. Thank you again.

    • Hi there, yes negative thoughts and impulses drains the energy and motivation from those with depression. Depression can be contagious if you are trying to help someone go through it. That is why you need to take the cautionary measures to ensure your own health is balanced. Thank you for reaching out.

  4. Thanks for your post. It is important to remember this. When you have a friend or family member suffering from depression, it can be difficult to persevere in maintaining support and contact. The depression they are suffering from makes them negative in their outlook which can be difficult. However, as you point out, it is an illness and they need support and unconditional love to help them get through.

    • Hi Anika, I agree with you. They need our support and help the most. The cure to mental illness is support, attention, and help coming that way. How will anyone get better if they do not have access to these resources? Glad I could help and if you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to ask.

  5. Hi Rob. I have lost several friends through depression and I wished there was something I could have done. Unfortunately, I was living overseas and was unaware of their problems until it was too late. I believe the stigma around mental illness is changing and there is more awareness now but we definitely need more websites like your one. It’s one thing knowing a person may be depressed but it’s another thing knowing what to do.

    • Sorry to hear that Craig. The stigma is changing and the situation is becoming better. We have so many support groups as well that spread the awareness. I love the #BellLetsTalk day where they donate money to each person who includes that hashtag. Such a worthy cause that is helping end the stigma. Glad I could help.

  6. Thank you so much for the signs of depression. This list is very beneficial especially as a mother of two teenagers. My eldest recently had a student in her grade commit suicide and this topic is really important to me. I appreciate your advice and help. I will keep this site bookmarked for help when I need it. Our society really does to keep depression at the forefront and do more to help those who suffer.

    • So delighted I could help Melanie. That is a really tough situation and must have been devastating not only to the family and friends, but to the entire class. Hope everyone is doing okay. Suicide is so common in correlation with mental illness such as depression. That is why we must beat the stigma and help spread awareness. I will continue helping those with these struggles. Thank you for reaching out.

  7. Hey ROB,
    I’m glad to run across these tips. Currently, I struggle with depression issue.
    This is one post jammed packed with very useful information which I would bookmark and come back from time to time when looking for mental health tips.
    Thanks for sharing.

    • Thank you Maun, glad I could be of use. If you have any other questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to reach out.

  8. This is truly an amazing article, I’ve had a daily member that struggles with this and I’m going to use some of this advice. Patience is a huge part and realizing it’s not your fault. This was the perfect article thank you so much!

    • Awesome, glad I could help! Patience and listening is key when dealing with mental illness patients! You’re very welcome.

  9. Wow! Very detailed, informative, and helpful. I think we may all know someone who is or were seriously depressed at one time or another. If unchecked, it can turn bad. I really hope that A LOT of people read this and get the right help for their situation.

    • Yes, a lot of people get depression. It is so common and needs proper treatment. We never know what someone is going through and that is why we should always be kind and lend a helping hand. I love to spread the word raising awareness for mental illness.

  10. Hi Rob,

    Another really insightful and helpful post that is going to help not just those with depression but those who might think they have it and those trying to help those with depression. It is such a horrid thing and so many people are really good at hiding it.

    So many people look and act like they are the happiest people in the world then you hear they are suffering from stress and depression and you are left wondering why. Your post has such great information especially the signs of depression that many people don’t notice.

    Will share this as so many people need to read it. Thanks again and keep up the brilliant work 🙂

    Kev

    • Thank you Kev, much appreciated. I completely agree. Someone may act like the happiest person in the world and yet have depression or another form of mental illness. A smile can hide it all. That is why it is so important to always be kind.

      Thank you for reaching out. So happy to help!

  11. This article is amazing. I have a close friend with depression and it can be really hard to help. It takes a ton of patience, and its hard to not take things personally. It is so important to educate people on this and you did a wonderful job thank you!!

    • Thank you Emily. Yes patience, listening, and offering positive, right support methods is key. Glad I could help.

  12. Thank you so much for sharing this post. It’s amazing and I think will be helpful for anyone having to have that ‘courageous conversation’ with a loved one, friend or acquaintance they suspect is suffering from depression. The more we can talk about depression and mental illness in an open and caring way, the more we can remove the stigma from the illness and make it a safe environment for everyone to better cope and share. All the best, Karen

    • For sure, that is my aims. Love to help those struggling and those who need to be the ones to offer support. The stigma needs to go. We are doing a good job as a society but we have a lot of progress to make! Thank you for reaching out Karen.

  13. This is a great article. Many people like myself would not naturally know what to look for let alone know what to do.

  14. Hey! thank you so much for the information. I really like the don’ts list because we normally try to solve the problems and depression of the people that we love. I think it is great how you get deeply into this. I wil recommend this post to my friends!

    • You’re very welcome Javiera. Yes, sometimes we try to take matters to far into our own hands because we think that is best but deep down, we are making the situation worse. Depression is not an easy fix. It takes time, patience, and a lot of calm support! Thank you for reaching out.

  15. I have suffered from depression in the past and I think this is good advise for people looking for the signs of depression. Some times it is very hard to see as you just think people are keeping them selves to them selves but this is not always the case. Thanks for the great article.

    • I agree James. A smile can hide it all. We never really know what a person may be going through. Be kind always. Thank you for reaching out and my pleasure for the article!

  16. I’m glad that there more awareness about mental health these days. Yes there is a stigma but compared to how it’s handled in Eastern Europe, we are more open-minded here in North America. I’m Eastern European and the way depression is viewed is very backwards. Many people don’t get the help they need because they are told that they just have to get over it and that we are weak if we don’t. As a result many people are in denial over how they are feeling. I hope that this will change.

    • Hi Vanessa. That is unfortunate to hear that mental illness does not receive as much positive attention in Eastern Europe as it does in North America. Let’s end the stigma. So important for those struggling. We need to talk about it and we need to discuss natural ways/remedies to help beat depression and other mental illnesses. It needs to change! Thank you for reaching out!

  17. There can never be enough exposure and awareness raised about this condition, I am just coming out of a spell of depression and I’m passionate about helping others. I also lost a friend through depression who sadly took his own life.
    I will happily share your website in social media.

    • Thank you Darren. Much appreciated. Depression is serious. It takes over lives and literally takes lives away from us. With all the awareness we spread, hopefully we will reduce the number of cases each year, both depression and suicide.

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