Depression: Offering Support

Trying to offer support to a friend or loved one with depression can be hard. You may not know how to act. You may worry that you'll say the wrong thing.

Here are some suggestions about how to offer positive support.

  • Don't ask your loved one to snap out of it. Depression is a real medical illness. People who are depressed can't just "pull themselves together" and feel better. Recovering from depression takes time and treatment. Think about it: You wouldn't ask someone with cancer to snap out of it. Depression is just as real and just as serious an illness.
  • Listen. Right now, what your loved one with depression may need most is someone to listen. Don't dismiss their concerns. Don't assume that you know what they are going through. Just listen.
  • Encourage your depressed loved one to be more active. Most people who are depressed isolate themselves. Isolation can make things worse. So gently encourage your friend with depression to get out more. Suggest that you do things together. Invite your loved one out to dinner or to a walk around the neighborhood.
  • Don't push too hard. Be encouraging but not forceful. Don't make demands. People who are depressed feel overwhelmed as it is. If you're always pushing, a person with depression may pull back more. So if your friend or loved one declines your invitations, don't force the issue. Instead, just give it a little time and then ask again. Be persistent but gentle.
  • Encourage your loved one to stick with treatment. It's key that your loved one with depression stay on any prescribed medications and get regular checkups. They may also need encouragement to eat well, get enough sleep, and stay away from alcohol and drugs. You could also offer to go with your loved one to therapy or health care appointments.
  • Create a stable environment. Reducing stress around the home can help a person with depression. Try to get your loved one on a schedule, so they know what to expect each day.
  • Emphasize that your loved one will feel better. Because of depression, your loved one may feel hopeless. Be reassuring. Depression distorts a person's perception of the world. But with time and treatment, your friend or loved one will see clearly again.


WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Smitha Bhandari, MD on January 21, 2020


SOURCES: Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance: "Helping a Friend or Family Member With Depression or Bipolar Disorder," 2004. Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance: "Finding Peace of Mind: Treatment Strategies for Depression and Bipolar Disorder." American Psychiatric Association: "Practice Guideline for the Treatment of Patients With Major Depression," 2000. Fochtmann, L. and Gelenberg, A. Guideline Watch: Practice Guideline for the Treatment of Patients with Major Depressive Disorder, 2nd Edition. Focus, Winter 2005: vol 3: pp 34-42. Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance: "Psychotherapy: How It Works and How It Can Help." Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance: "You've Just Been Diagnosed ... What Now?"

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