How to Support Someone Dealing with Depression

Whether they are in denial or despair, people dealing with depression who are not ready to face the reality of their condition can be hard to help.

dealing with depression

Feedback from a concerned friend or family member is often a helpful “wake-up call” to someone who is depressed, whether or not that person decides to act on it right away.

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When someone you care about is dealing with depression, it can be painful to watch. People with depression don’t always make good choices. You may get frustrated when they refuse to leave the house or eat anything except burgers and fries.

It’s not uncommon for people dealing with depression to not even realize that they are depressed. Particularly if the depression is longstanding, they may think that the way they feel is just part of normal life and that there is nothing they can do about it. As a result, they may refuse to even try to get better. Alternatively, they may be well aware that they are depressed but feel so hopeless about life that they don’t think there is any point in trying to make things better.

Whether they are in denial or despair, stoic, or self-destructive, people with depression who are not ready to face the reality of their condition can be hard to help. In fact, it may be that they are impossible to help, at least for a time.

Depression Is Not Contagious

While it may not be healthy to spend all your time with people who “bring you down,” research now shows that positive emotions spread more easily among people than negative ones. Always take care of your own mental health and maintain healthy boundaries, but also be aware that supporting another person who is going through a rough time can make a world of difference.

Break the Ice

The very first thing you can do for someone dealing with depression is mention that you have noticed something is wrong. Suggest that depression may be the cause. Be prepared for the fact that the person may take offense. Explain that your intentions are good. Offer your help and support but realize that you cannot “cure” that person no matter how hard you try. All you can do is help them recognize that there is a problem, let them know you care, and suggest professional help.

Don’t shy away from asking someone directly about his or her depression. Even trained professionals sometimes don’t recognize the signs and symptoms in themselves. Feedback from a concerned friend or family member is often a helpful “wake-up call” to someone who is depressed, whether or not that person decides to act on it right away.

Suggest Resources

When you first approach a friend or a loved one about dealing with depression, bring a few recommendations for available local services, such as the names and phone numbers of therapists or support groups. Your doctor, insurance company, local hospital or local support groups such as the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance can all help you identify services available in your area. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Organization (SAMHSA), American Psychological Association (APA), Psychology Today, and Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), also offer therapist locator services on their websites.

Gently keep track of whether your loved one seeks treatment and follows up on whatever care is proposed, such as seeing a therapist or taking medication as prescribed. Those first few weeks can be the most difficult, when facing the truth is painful and medication may be causing side effects. Offer your encouragement along the way.

Signs of Trouble

With anyone who is depressed, it is always important to be on the lookout for the signs of suicidal tendencies. Some of the warning signs include:

  • Being obsessed with death, talking about it all the time
  • Calling people to say goodbye
  • Engaging in risky behaviors, like drinking and driving
  • Putting their affairs in order, such as finalizing a last will and testament or giving away treasured objects or pets
  • Saying things like, “everyone will be better off when I’m gone”
  • Talking or writing or posting on social media sites about committing suicide.

If you see any of these warning signs, call a mental health professional, a suicide hotline (such as 1-800-SUICIDE or 1-800-273-TALK), or 911 right away.

Don’t hesitate to ask whether a close friend or family member has had any thoughts of self-harm or not wanting to live. Asking about suicide does not make it more likely. On the contrary, it can give people the opportunity they need to share their burden and get the help they need. Suicidal thoughts are often part of being depressed. They do not necessarily require hospitalization, but they do need to be taken seriously, and they always require urgent evaluation.

For more information on dealing with depression, purchase Overcoming Depression at

As a service to our readers, University Health News offers a vast archive of free digital content. Please note the date published or last update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

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Alison Palkhivala

Alison Palkhivala is an award-winning writer and journalist specializing in lifestyle, nutrition, health, and medicine. She has authored the Belvoir special report Overcoming Depression and the University Health News book … Read More

View all posts by Alison Palkhivala

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