When Someone You Care About Seems Depressed, What Can You Do?

When Someone You Care About Seems Depressed, What Can You Do?


Your work colleague no longer wants to join you for lunch in the cafeteria on Fridays.


Your partner has stopped going to the gym.


The last time you saw your friend she looked fragile and sad, like it wasn’t her anymore. Her boyfriend who used to complain you two spent too much time together is begging you to take her out with you and the girls.


Or maybe it’s your sister, struggling with depression for a few months now. She has been getting treatment for such a long time now, but just doesn’t seem to be improving.


What do you do?


While every case of depression is unique and may respond at varying levels to both medical and/or psychological treatment, your attempts to support may also be met with all different responses and no guarantees. But the fact that you are there and offering support can be helpful in its own way, even if you feel like you aren’t seeing any changes. There are however a few things you can try that could make a difference, however small.


1.Build your general understanding of what depression or anxiety is, and seek a better understanding of how that is impacting on their world. It’s hard trying to help someone if you don’t understand what is going on for them. A good place to get some reliable information is Black Dog Institute


2. Tell them you are concerned/worried. Tell them you care. Give them a hug.


3. Ask questions, but don’t necessarily expect or demand answers. Asking questions and keeping communication open can be so important. Everyone’s experience of depression is going to be so unique and different. For some it may be about extreme desperation, suicidality and self-harm; for some it is about managing all the stress and stuff going on in their life – and it’s often this stuff that you didn’t even know was going on. For some it can be bullying, or cyber bullying which can affect so many people in the invisible way that is insidious. For others it can be a purely medical or chemical issue needing a doctor’s input or simply some more sunshine and vitamin D. You won’t know until you start asking some questions. Some of these are a good place to start

  • Do you want to talk about what is going on for you ?

  • Can you tell me what you need ?

  • When did you first start to feel down like this?

  • Do you know what started it ?

  • What things makes you feel better?

  • Have you been eating properly? Have you lost your appetite ?

  • Are you under  pressure at work?

  • Are you sleeping ok ?or sleeping too much ?

  • Have you told anyone how you’ve been feeling ?

And, IF YOU ARE WORRIED ABOUT THEIR SAFETY sometimes the really difficult questions need to be asked -

  • Have you been cutting or any other self-harm stuff ?

  • Do really dark thoughts ever get stuck in your head ? Are the thoughts scaring you ? Are the thoughts about dying ? or wanting life to end ?

  • Are the thoughts ever about how to hurt yourself ?

4. Encourage them to talk and to get support. Mostly this is about helping them link in with a doctor or allied health professional to get the help they need so they can feel better much sooner. If they are already getting support, suggest they bring an appointment forward. Encourage them to tell the doctor that things aren’t going as well for them as they hoped. Encourage them to tell the counsellor that those around them have noticed recently how sad/mad/bad they have been appearing lately. Even just encourage them to talk to a school counsellor or a free helpline on the phone can be a good place for those to start who are reluctant to get help. Offer to go with them if that will help them. If they are a young person or child, offer to tell their parents or another adult for them, so that there are adults helping as well.


5. De-stress and re-balance  When under stress your mind and body are under fire. Stress wears us out emotionally, physically and mentally. So one of the best things you can do for someone who is struggling with depression is to help them reduce stress. You might be able to take some of the stress for them, or at least help them organise and prioritise so it is easier for them to respond to the stresses in their life. At the same time you can support them to create a little better balance in their life so that they have a little more down-time, self-care opportunities, relaxation, exercise and fun.


6. Encourage them to laugh.  Laughing is great for our health as well as our emotional well being – it’s a bit of exercise, stretches those muscles and it is said to increase the circulation of those feel good hormones and chemicals through our system.


7. Acknowledge positives and strengths, and that they have made it this far.  Assure them that the negative thoughts in someone’s head doesn’t make them weak, rather point out that it means they are strong, stronger than they themselves realise. That they just get through each day despite carrying such a heavy debilitating load proves their strength.


8. Give hope.  Let them know “You won’t always feel this way.” It is a simple but powerful healing statement which gives hope. One of the hardest things you may have to do is to help them believe they will get better. Once they have some hope in their soul, they will start finding small ways at least to seek help or help themselves.


And if you can’t do any of those – just simply Listen. Don’t interrupt, don’t break the silence, don’t judge – just simply listen.  Look at them, give them your attention. Connect with them. Listen to what they are saying, and also to what they aren’t saying. Care about them. Even if you don’t understand everything they are saying – still be there with them and listen with your eyes, ears and soul... and no judgement.

Love and light,

Sjana x