5 Ways to Help a Loved One with Depression


Chances are you probably know someone fighting a battle with depression. In fact, just over 7% of all U.S. adults have experienced an episode of depression. According to the World Health Organization, just under 300 million people live with depression.

Watching a loved one struggle with any mental illness can be scary. Seeing someone you care about deal with depression can often leave you feeling frustrated, helpless and overwhelmed. You may find ourself wanting to help the person you care about; however, you may no know what to do.

Your support and encouragement can play a role in your loved one’s recovery.

Here are five ways you can make a difference.

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#1 Recognizing the Signs of Depression

Friends and family are usually the first line of defense against depression. Therefore, it is vital that you know the signs and symptoms of depression. You may notice problems in a depressed loved one before they do, and your influence and concern can motivate them to seek help.

Not everyone experiences depression the same way. So it is important to be familiar with the signs and symptoms of depression. According to the Mayo Clinic, depressive symptoms may include:

  • Feelings of sadness, emptiness or hopelessness
  • Angry outbursts, irritability or frustration, even over what seem like small matters
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in most or all normal activities, such as sex, hobbies or sports
  • Little sleep or sleeping too much
  • Tiredness and lack of energy, so even small tasks take extra effort
  • Changes in appetite
  • Anxiety, agitation or restlessness
  • Feelings of worthlessness, guilt, or fixating on past failures
  • Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things
  • Frequent or recurrent mention of death, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts or suicide
  • Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches

#2 Talk to Your Loved One

If you notice the signs and symptoms of depression in someone you care about, it is important to share you concerns with them. Sometimes it is hard to know what to say when speaking to someone about depression. You might be afraid that if you bring up your worries the person will get angry, feel insulted, or ignore your concerns. You may be unsure what questions to ask or how to be supportive.

Let your friend know you’re there for them. You can start the conversation by sharing your concerns and asking a specific question. You may start by sharing the changes you’ve observed recently that worry you. When you do this, it is important not to be critical. Just state the facts as you see them in a neutral way and pause often to give them room to respond to what you have to say.

Examples of starting a conversation you’re concerned about may sound like:

  • “It seems like you’ve been having a hard time lately. What’s on your mind?”
  • “The last few times we’ve been together, you seemed a little down. Is there anything going on you that you’d like to talk about?”
  • “I have been feeling concerned about you lately.”
  • “Recently, I have noticed some differences in you and wondered how you are doing.”
  • “I wanted to check in with you because you have seemed pretty down lately.”

The National Alliance on Mental Illness reminds us not to scold or blame people with depression or urge them to “try harder” to “just be happy.” Instead, we need to make specific offers of help and follow through with those offers. Tell the person you care about them. Ask them how they feel and truly listen.

#3 Assist Your Loved One with Getting Help

Someone with depression may need help seeking care, because of a sense of stigma and shame and because their illness makes it harder for them to manage tasks such as finding a mental health provider or scheduling an appointment.

Even if they know therapy could help, it can be daunting to search for a therapist and make an appointment. If your friend seems interested in counseling, offer to help them review potential therapists. You can help your friend list things to ask potential therapists and things they want to mention in their first session. Suggesting that you can do these things for them, remind them when the appointment is coming up, and accompany them to the visit can help them get treatment sooner rather than later.

If they’re hesitant to see a mental health professional such as a therapist or psychiatrist, see if they’re willing to visit their primary care doctor. Although it’s best to see someone specializing in mental health, the important part is getting connected to some form of help when needed.

Encouraging them and supporting them to make that first appointment can be so helpful if they’re having a hard time with it.

#4 Support Them in Continuing Therapy

On a bad depression day, your loved one might not feel like leaving the house. Depression can zap a person’s energy and increase the desire to self-isolate.

If they say something like, “I think I’m going to cancel my therapy appointment,” encourage them to stick with it. You might tell them, “Last week you said your session was really productive and you felt a lot better afterward. What if today’s session helps, too?”

The same goes for medication. If your friend wants to stop taking medication because of unpleasant side effects, be supportive, but encourage them to talk with their psychiatrist or doctor about switching to a different antidepressant or stopping their medication entirely.

Abruptly stopping depression medication without the supervision of a healthcare professional may have serious consequences. Typically, reaching out to a healthcare professional before stopping medication use can prevent health complications.

#5 Support Them with Day to Day Tasks

While starting treatment is a crucial component to managing depression, your loved one may still need help with their daily functioning. With depression, day-to-day tasks can feel overwhelming. Things like laundry, grocery shopping, or paying bills can begin to pile up, making it hard to know where to start.

You can also offer to help them with tasks that may feel overwhelming, like grocery shopping, laundry, or cleaning the house, or simply suggest you take a quick walk around the block together to get them out and about.

Your friend may appreciate an offer of help, but they also might not be able to clearly say what they need help with. So, instead of saying “Let me know if there’s anything I can do,” consider saying, “What do you most need help with today?” If you notice their refrigerator is empty, say “Can I take you grocery shopping, or pick up what you need if you write me a list?” or “Let’s go get some groceries and cook dinner together.” If your friend is behind on dishes, laundry, or other household chores, offer to come over, put some music on, and tackle a specific task together.

Simply having company can make the work seem less daunting.

Is someone you know suffering from depression? If so, encourage them to seek help. Tri-Star Counseling, LLC would consider it a privilege to help your loved one heal from their depressive symptoms. You or loved one can call us at 423-430-9687 or schedule an appointment with us on our online patient portal.

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