Helping a friend with depression

Know someone going through depression but not sure what to do? Find out why support from friends and family is really important, and check out the tips for helping someone through depression. Don’t forget to look after yourself too.

This can help with…

  • reducing your stress levels
  • knowing how to talk to someone about depression
  • knowing when to get professional help
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Why it helps

While everyone’s experience is different, going through depression can be a pretty intense experience – so having support from friends and family can be really important. If someone you know is going through depression, check out these tips on how to help them through the tough times.

How to help someone with depression.

  • Be there to listen. Make conversations about what they’re going through easy and open. Ask them what you can do – find out what they find helpful during tough times. Make sure you acknowledge they are feeling down but try and remain positive and encouraging.

  • Choose when to talk. If you want to bring up a sensitive issue with someone, try and choose a time when you are both relaxed. Avoid talking to them during an argument or if they are upset.

  • Accept their condition. If someone is suffering from symptoms of depression, it isn’t possible for them to just snap out of it, cheer up, or forget about it. Asking them to do this can come across like you’re not taking their feelings seriously and could upset them.

  • Get informed. Finding out more info about depression might help you better understand what someone is going through. Check out our factsheet on ‘depression’ for more info.

  • Encourage them to get help. If you have a friend with depression, it’s really important that they seek help. Recommending they go and visit a local doctor/GP is a good first step. You could offer to go with them if they’re worried or need extra support. If they’re not comfortable with speaking to someone face-to-face, there are online and email counselling services.

  • Back down if they aren’t ready. If you think a friend needs to visit an expert but they didn’t respond well to the suggestion, don’t force the issue or put too much pressure on them – it could put them off getting help. Remain supportive by offering help and suggestions when asked. The exception to this is if you think someone may be in danger or at risk of hurting themselves or someone else. In this case it’s important that you seek help immediately. Call 000 to reach emergency services and tell someone you trust.

How to help yourself

  • Look after yourself. You might be really worried about a friend with depression but it’s really important you also look after yourself by monitoring your own mood and stress levels.

  • Don’t give up the things you enjoy. Always make sure you've got the time to do your favourite things and work towards your own goals. If you've lost sight of your goals, you can always set some new ones.

  • Check out some ways to relax. Relaxation is great for helping you unwind and deal with stress.

  • Set boundaries. You aren’t going to be able to be there for your friend all the time and you can’t let helping someone take over your life. Set some limits around what you are willing and not willing to do – and make sure you stick to them! For example, you might decide to not take any phone calls in the middle of the night, or to not miss out on any of your own commitments because of your friend. 

  • Ask for support. It’s important that you’re getting your own emotional support. Talk to people you trust about how you’re feeling. It can be particularly frustrating when you feel like you aren’t able to help someone, so you might also want to go to therapy or join a support group.

What can I do now?

Last reviewed: 18 June, 2014
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