How to Help a Loved One with Depression

If you have a loved one who suffers from depression, it’s easy to feel powerless to help. Everything you try to do to help only seems to make them more upset, but you can’t just do nothing when you see your loved one in pain and suffering.

However, what’s left to do when all your efforts to “cheer someone up” just don’t help? It can be discouraging when every invitation is turned down, and every attempt at conversation meets only a stony wall or a sigh. Here are some tips and advice for helping a loved one with depression.

  • Encourage them to get professional help. This can be a difficult step, because although you don’t want to overstep your bounds, it’s hard for your loved one to feel hopeful enough to believe that treatment can help. You might need to contact the therapist, enable the meetings, and keep searching to help them find someone who’s a good fit.
  • Educate yourself about the signs of suicide and be alert. Suicide is a real risk during periods of depression, especially during early stages of treatment when you think that things are getting better.
  • Listen without judgement. Encourage your loved one to express what’s going on. Don’t judge, or counter their feelings, or try to “fix” things. People with depression tend to withdraw, and this can help them feel connected and ready to ask for help.
  • Learn more about depression, and recognize it as a disease, rather than a mood.
  • Give opportunities to be active, busy, and with other people. It’s difficult to engage in social activity when you’re depressed, but it’s also an important thing to do. Don’t be discouraged when invitations get turned down. Keep trying.
  • Help them notice what you notice. Express your concerns, identify the changes you’ve seen, and articulate why you’re worried. Don’t forget to express the positive changes you see, as well. It’s hard for someone with depression to see the improvements that may seem incremental as they embark on treatment.
  • Check in and don’t lose touch. Be consistent in reaching out to them and seeing how things are going. Small contacts that are consistent are more important than large pushes that are sporadic.
  • Help around the house. It’s difficult to get daily tasks done with depression, and your friend might find themselves in a bad cycle of getting behind on dishes, laundry, cleaning, taking care of children, and even taking care of themselves. In fact, small things like not having clean clothes can be enough of a deterrent to keep them from doing activities that can help counter depression, and so it’s useful for an extra pair of hands to help.
  • Be patient. In the meantime, take care of yourself too. Don’t hide how their depression affects you, but stay positive. It can be disheartening, holding up one side of a relationship when the other person has checked out. Treatment for depression can take a long time to figure out what works. It might even be helpful to get treatment for yourself or seek out the support of a group.