How to help someone with depression

When someone you’re close struggles with depression, it can leave you feeling confused and frustrated yourself. But you aren’t helpless

It’s normal to feel helpless if you have a friend, partner or family member suffering from undiagnosed or untreated depression, but there are ways you can help.

  1. Recognise the symptoms. Just by knowing the signs of depression, you can be a great help to a loved one or friend who may not be able to recognise it themselves.
  2. Tell the depressed person that he or she deserves to feel better, that they’re loved and will feel better with proper treatment
  3. In the case of a depressed child or adolescent, set up treatment. For adult friends or family, convince the depressed person to see a doctor who can help.
  4. If the depressed person is functional and refuses treatment, ask others for help – such as friends, a doctor, a church leader, or relatives.
  5. If the depressed person is battling to function, go with them to treatment until they’re able to get to appointments on their own.
  6. Recommend support groups and other resources that offer assistance.
  7. If the depressed person is too young or ill to provide important information to the therapist, act as a go-between as long as needed.
  8. If the depressed person is having hallucinations or delusions, or is suicidal, speak to the doctor and arrange for hospitalisation.
  9. Be patient and don’t give up too soon: the depressed person may have to hear more than once, and from several people, that he or she deserves to feel better and can get there with the proper treatment.
  10. If all efforts to encourage the depressed person to seek treatment have failed, and the depressed person is having a demoralising effect on those around, parents of a depressed adult can clarify, with the help of a mental health specialist, how to proceed.
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Do your research

It helps to educate yourself about depression. Once you understand depression’s symptoms, treatments and consequences, you are better able to support a loved one. Remember: just asking how you can help and being can be an incredible gift. For more information on the signs and symptoms, visit our Depression page.

Joanne Hart for