How to Help Someone with Depression

Depression is a serious but treatable disorder that affects millions of people, from young to old and from all walks of life. It can cause great upset, pain, and impede one’s ability to carry out tasks or be happy. Depression not only effects the individual inflicted with the disorder but also those around them. Remember that your support at this time is hugely important and can play a vital role in rejuvenating their cognitive well-being.

How to Help Someone with Depression

1. Spend Time Together

In many cases, simply being with someone can prove highly beneficial in helping them overcome depression. Being there let them know that you care for them, which can have an extremely positive effect on their cognitive well-being.

Exercise together: Exercising can help to lift depressive mood states by stimulating neurotransmitters. This does not mean that you have to run a marathon, simply walking in the park will prove beneficial. Try to incorporate this into your social relationship, and make it part of daily routines for both.

Cook or shop together: Those who are depressed may feel too down to prepare health meals, which can have many negative connotations on one’s physical health. Hang out together and prepare some healthy meals for your friend or family member can pop in their freezer.

2. Be There to Listen

Remember that listening is often more effective than giving advices. Whilst it is important for you to remain positive, you should also acknowledge your friend or family members’ feelings. Do not try to “fix” them, simply listen to how they are feeling and offer encouragement and support. Remember that one good, positive conversation may not be enough to quell depression, so be patient, and continually express your concern and support.

3. Talk to Them

When attempting to ascertain how to help someone with depression, it is important to talk to them in the right way. There are ways in which you can talk about their depression in positive ways. Start a conversation with something like:

  • I have been concerned for you recently.
  • I’ve recently noticed some differences in you, is everything ok?
  • I just wanted to check in with you as you have seemed quite down lately.

Appropriate questions you can ask:

  • How can I help you?
  • When did you start to have these feelings?
  • Was there an incident that brought on these feelings?
  • Have you considered seeking help?

To be truly supportive, one must offer hope, encouragement, and sincerity. Saying phrases like “everything will be fine” seems that you undermined their disorder no matter how sincere you say it. Though your friend or family member will likely understand that you are only trying to help, statements such as these can only make them feel worse. In most cases, a simple silent hug is better than these meaningless cliché. Instead, you can say things like I’m here for you, I believe in you or I believe that you are strong, and I believe that you will get through this difficult time.

4. Be Informed About Depression

It can be extremely difficult to help someone if you do not truly understand what they are going through. People’s experience of depression may be different, but understanding some basic knowledge on depression such as the symptoms of depression is going to prevent you from saying something hurtful.

You don’t have to be a neuroscientist or psychologist to get helpful information and there are numerous resources you can utilize to get well versed on the subject of depression. Books about depression can be useful, especially when they are reliable sources of advice or guidance that's known to help people with depression.

5. Encourage Them to Get Help

Getting professional help will always prove beneficial when you don’t know how to help someone with depression. Try to encourage your loved ones to seek help for their disorder in case of serious symptoms. Depression can make individuals feel deprived of energy and motivation, making a doctor’s visit may be daunting for them. And the negative thoughts derived from depression can make an individual feel that professional treatment is pointless. If that’s the case, then here’s what you can do to help:

  • Suggest they undergo general check-up. Seeing a family doctor for a general check-up may seem less daunting than visiting a mental health care professional. The physician will be able to rule out any underlying causes for depressive symptoms. If their doctor diagnoses depression and referred your loved one to a psychiatrist/psychologist.
  • Offer to help them seek out a therapist/doctor, and go with them to their appointment. Finding the right treatment provider can be difficult, and is often a trial-and-error process. For this reason, helping your loved one attain the right help, booking their appointment, and going with them can prove highly beneficial.
  • Encourage your loved one to list their symptoms to discuss with a professional. If they list out their symptoms, they may see that they require help. You can also mention things that you may have noticed as an observer such as, “You seem more down in the mornings,” or “You always get stomach pain before work.”

Taking Care of Yourself While Helping a Depressed Person

It would be near impossible to help someone with depression if your own cognitive and physical well-being was not satisfactory. For this reason, including your own health as a priority is extremely important. Remember that if you are trying to help a loved one who is depressed, and are not emotionally stable yourself, then you may “collapse” under the pressure, meaning that you will be unable to help them.

Tips for Taking Care of Yourself

Learning how to help someone with depression is important, but take care of yourself at this time is equally of importance. You may wish to consider some of the following tips:

  • Speak up for yourself. If you feel hurt or upset by the depressed person, then make it known. Bottling up such feelings may lead to resentment, and may even ruin your relationship. However, honest communication will actually benefit the relationship in the long run. And it takes skills to open up with the depressed person-- Don’t be harsh, just gently inform them of your feelings.
  • Set boundaries. Helping is important, but you do not want to let yourself be controlled by their depression, set limits on what you are willing and able to do.
  • Stay on track with your own life. It would be hard to make no changes when caring for a depressed person, but you should still try to focus on your own life somewhat, don’t miss appointments or plans that you have made, and remain focused on your own goals.
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