How to Help Someone With Depression

Supportive women hug while attending a group therapy session

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According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), around 21 million adults in the U.S. have depression. Because it is one of the most common mental health conditions, chances are good that you or someone you know has experienced at least one episode of depression in their life.

If someone you love has depression, you may wonder how you can help. You may even experience a range of difficult feelings of your own, such as worry, disappointment, and anger.

This article discusses how to support someone with depression. It focuses on strategies you can use to offer support and encourage your loved one to seek treatment for their condition.

If you or a loved one are struggling with depression, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area. 

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.


If you live with someone who is depressed and see their day-to-day life, you may be confused and even afraid at times. And if you have never been depressed yourself, you might have a hard time imagining what it feels like. You may not know much about the causes of depression, how it's diagnosed, or what treatment options are available.

It can be helpful to know that it is normal to feel confused, overwhelmed, or unsure about what you can do to help. Instead of allowing these fears to keep you from lending a hand, utilize your concern to learn more about the condition and to guide your search for ways you can lend a hand.

Social support can play an important role in mental well-being, including having a protective role against depression. Letting your friend know that you care and that you want to help can be an important first step.

There are many steps you can take to educate yourself about your loved one's experience with depression, but you also need to take care of your own mental health and well-being.

How to Help Someone With Depression

While every person's experience with depression is unique (as is the experience of supporting someone who is depressed) here are a few ideas to start with. Learning more about how to support someone with depression can help you feel more empowered and ready to lend a hand.

Take Care of Yourself

You won't be able to support someone else if you are feeling overwhelmed and depleted yourself. Periodically take some time to step back from the situation and recharge your batteries.

While you can't "catch" depression the way you would a cold or the flu, the shared genetic and environmental influences may make it more likely that people who live together or are members of the same family will become depressed.

Acknowledge Your Feelings

Depression can be demanding both for the person experiencing it and those who care about them. Remember that your feelings are a valid response to what can be, at times, a challenging situation to navigate.

You may find it helpful to find a caretaker support group, talk with a close friend, or see a counselor. The important thing is to vent your frustrations rather than allowing them to build up.

Get the Facts on Depression

There are trusted resources on the internet that provide facts about depression, including symptoms and treatment. Reading up on what depression can feel like as well as the myths, misconceptions, and stigma around mental illness, can help you better understand your loved one's experience.

Research Your Rights

You should also learn about the other aspects of living with depression, such as informed consent and the legal rights of people seeking treatment. You may also want to inform yourself and your loved one about the relevant disability laws in your state for people who have a mental illness.

Be Supportive

Sometimes, the most helpful thing you can offer to someone going through a hard time is your presence. Just providing a listening ear or a shoulder to cry on can be very comforting. Be patient and let your loved one know you are there for them.

You may decide to share what you've learned about depression in your research, but the most important thing you can tell them is that you understand depression is not their fault and that they are not lazy, weak, or worthless.

It's Not Personal

Depression can impair a person's social skills as well as make them feel less like being around others. They may become withdrawn, shy, sullen, and angry.

While it can be hard to be on the receiving end of an outburst, when someone who is depressed lashes out in anger, keep in mind that it may not be related to you at all—you might have just been in the wrong place at the wrong time.

When your loved one pulls away from you, it can be very difficult not to take it personally—especially if you are in a romantic relationship. If your partner doesn't feel like having sex, you may feel rejected or worry they don't love you anymore.

Try to keep in mind that loss of sex drive is a classic symptom of depression. Sexual dysfunction can also be a side effect of the medications used to treat it.

Avoid Judgment and Blame

If someone you love is depressed and no longer able to do the activities they used to, including working or helping around the house, you may feel like they are lazy. When you get frustrated, try to remember that someone who is depressed isn't lazy—they're ill.

Everyday activities like cleaning the house, paying bills, or feeding the dog may seem overwhelming, if not impossible, to someone who is depressed. If your loved one's responsibilities around the house are piling up, you may not be able to take them on yourself.

In addition to resisting the urge to blame your loved one, try not to blame yourself either. Know that it's OK if you need to ask for help.

Understand Medications

Many people with depression take medication, if not several. One practical way you can help them is by educating yourself on how the medication works, what the side effects are, and knowing signs to look for that would indicate the treatment is not working or that your loved one has stopped taking a medication (i.e., withdrawal symptoms).

You can also help them remember to refill prescriptions, keep their pills organized, make sure they are taking their medication as prescribed, and reassure them that they are not "crazy" for needing to take it.

Press Play for Advice on Treating Depression

Hosted by Editor-in-Chief and therapist Amy Morin, LCSW, this episode of The Verywell Mind Podcast, featuring singer-songwriter Andy Grammer, shares how therapy can help treat depression. Click below to listen now.

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Learn About Therapy

In addition to learning about the medication options that are available, spend some time researching the therapy options that are available to treat depression. Types of therapy that may be helpful for your loved one:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy is an approach that helps people recognize and change negative thinking patterns that play a part in symptoms of depression.
  • Interpersonal therapy focuses on helping people improve their communication skills and interpersonal relationships.
  • Dialectical behavior therapy is a type of therapy that incorporates aspects of mindfulness and helps people learn to manage stress, improve relationships, and regulate their emotions.

Find a Support Group

Support groups can be a beneficial resource for people who have depression as well as their friends and family. Talking to other people who share your experience can be a great way to find encouragement and support. Other members can also offer advice, tips, and information about resources that you might find helpful.

In addition to in-person support groups that might be available in your community, there are also online groups and depression chat rooms where you can discuss your experiences and share what you are feeling.

Offer Hope

Offer your loved one hope in whatever form they are able to accept it. It may be a faith in God or another kind of higher power, their children or pets, or anything in their life that makes them want to keep living.

Know what matters to your loved one and find ways to remind them of it when they feel down and hopeless. Be sure to remind yourself of these things, too.

If someone with depression is showing signs of suicidal ideation, self-harming, or you are worried they are planning to attempt suicide, they need immediate help.

For your loved one's safety, know the warning signs that could indicate they are suicidal, such as:

  • Preoccupation with death
  • Creating a will or giving away possessions
  • Talking openly about wanting to kill oneself
  • Saying goodbye as though it's the last time
  • Development of a suicide plan, acquiring the means to carry it out, "rehearsal" behavior, setting a time for the attempt
  • Statements like, "You'd be better off without me" or "I wish I could go to sleep and never wake up."
  • Suddenly switching from being very depressed to being very happy or calm for no apparent reason

Love Them Unconditionally

People who are depressed often feel a deep sense of guilt. They may believe that they are a burden to those around them. Sometimes, they even begin to feel that their loved ones would be "better off" with them.

One of the ways you can combat these feelings is by regularly showing and telling them that you love them unconditionally. When you become discouraged or angry, it's important to reassure them that you are frustrated with their illness, not them.

Links and Resources

In addition to learning more about how to support the person you care about, it can also be helpful to explore links to some of the best depression resources that can offer more tools, information, and support.

Some resources that can help include:

  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services (SAMHSA) National Helpline: Visit online or call 1-800-662-4357
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI): Visit online, call 1-800-950-6264, or text NAMI to 741741
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: Visit online or call 988

A Word From Verywell

When you care about someone with depression and are trying to find the best way to help, it's essential that you have some support yourself. Whether it comes from other people in your life or a support group for caregivers, taking care of yourself not only strengthens your ability to help your loved one but also sets a positive example of good self-care.

8 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Nancy Schimelpfening
Nancy Schimelpfening, MS is the administrator for the non-profit depression support group Depression Sanctuary. Nancy has a lifetime of experience with depression, experiencing firsthand how devastating this illness can be.