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

This can help if:

  • you know someone with depression
  • you’re not sure what to say or do to help
  • you’ve stopped looking after yourself.
Two guys walking in alley

How do I help someone with depression?

Knowing they have the support of family and friends can be really important for someone who is experiencing depression. As a friend, though, it can be difficult to know what to do. Some tips include:

  • Be there to listen. If they feel like talking, ask them how they’re going. Ask them what you can do and what they find helpful.
  • Know when is a good time to talk. If you want to bring up a sensitive issue with someone, try to choose a time and place when you’re both comfortable and relaxed. Avoid talking to them about it if they’re upset.
  • Take their feelings seriously. If someone is suffering from symptoms of depression, it isn’t possible for them just to ‘snap out of it’, ‘cheer up’ or ‘forget about it’. If you imply that they can change how they’re feeling if they just tried harder, they’ll know you’re not taking their feelings seriously.
  • Become informed. Find out more about depression to help you better understand what someone is going through.
  • Encourage them to get help. If you have a friend with depression, it’s really important that they seek help. Recommending that they go and visit their GP is a good first step. You could offer to go with them if they’re worried or need extra support.
  • Let them know about support services. If your friend isn’t comfortable with speaking to someone face-to-face, there are online and email counselling services. You could also recommend the ReachOut NextStep tool, which recommends relevant support options based on what the person wants help with.
  • Talk about suicide and safety planning. Let your friend know that you’re worried about them, and ask if they’ve had thoughts of ending their life. Learn how to have a conversation about suicide, and ask how you can be a part of safety planning.
  • Back down if they aren’t ready. If you think a friend needs to visit a mental health professional but they don’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. In the meantime, try to encourage them to speak to someone else they trust, such as a teacher or family member, as a good first step.
  • Respond to emergencies. The exception to ‘backing down’ from encouraging your friend to get help is if you think they may be in danger or at risk of hurting themselves or someone else. In this case, seek help immediately. Call 000 to reach emergency services and also tell someone you trust.

The importance of self-care

It can be incredibly frustrating, exhausting and upsetting to deal with someone who is experiencing depression. You can be there to support your friend only if you look after yourself first.

  • Monitor your mood. You might be really worried about a friend with depression, but it’s important that you also monitor your own mood and stress levels. This could include rating your mood out of 10 each day, to track how you’re going.
  • Don’t give up the things you enjoy. Always make sure you've got the time to do your favourite things.
  • Make time to relax. Relaxation is great for helping you to unwind and deal with stress.
  • Set boundaries. You aren’t going to be able to be there for your friend all of the time. Set some limits around what you’re willing, and not willing, to do. For example, you might decide not to take any phone calls in the middle of the night, or not to miss social events just because your friend isn’t up to going.
  • Ask for support. It’s important that you’re getting your own emotional support. Talk to people you trust about how you’re feeling.

What can I do now?