How do I help a friend or family member who has depression?

Some background, some drama

If you know someone close to you that is suffering from depression, it can be difficult, confusing and saddening, not just for him or her, but for you as well. You want to be able to help your loved one, but you need to make sure you also say and do the right things. Even if it seems they aren't listening to you, they are trying. You may be unsure about what you should do to help.

Do’s and Don’ts

There are several ways that you can help a friend who is suffering from depression, from encouraging them to get treatment to building them up with kind words. The “How Do I" series tries to list down a few Do’s and don’ts to guide you to help a friend or family member who is in depression.

Do’s

  • Encourage your friend to talk to a doctor/counsellor/therapist.
  • Let your friend know that you are willing to help.
  • Encourage your friend every day so that they don’t feel worthless.
  • Let your friend know that you are there for them and that they are not isolated.
  • Listen when your friend wants to talk. Allow your friend to tell you about their feelings.
  • Plan some fun outings together. Choose activities that you both enjoy.
  • Laugh with your friend. Laughter is known as the best medicine to alleviate the symptoms of depression.
  • Watch for recurrences of depression symptoms. If your friend appears to be sinking back into depression, ask them what’s going on.
  • Do things for your friend. It does make a difference.
  • Be there to improve your loved one's every day.
  • Remind your loved one that he is never alone and that if he ever needs to talk to someone, you’ll be there.

Dont’s

  • Don’t tell them to “snap out of it." Be sensitive.
  • Don’t get discouraged if your friend does not respond to your positivity the way that you want or expect. Give time.
  • Don’t pressure your friend into sharing. Just let them know that you are willing to listen when they are ready and give them time.
  • Don’t get defensive. Be patient even though it might be hard sometimes.
  • Do not try to make them feel better by reminding them how much better their lives are than other people's lives.
  • Don't be confrontational. Though it's important to be firm, don't come off too strong.

Last words

Recovery can be hard work and it may take a while. It probably won't happen overnight or even in a few days or weeks, depending on how severe the depression is and the trigger factors causing it, if any. It is possible to experience "blips" or temporary relapses on the road to recovery. This is normal, so be reassuring when it happens and remind them how far they have come.

Sources and citations