How to Help a Loved One with Depression

Depression is a common mental disorder affecting millions in the U.S and around the world. While it is incredibly painful for the person living with it, it also takes a toll on that person’s friends and family too. Because it’s our instinct to take care of our loved ones, we are left wondering what to do in this situation. Here’s how you can help a loved one with depression.

Reach Out

This is the easiest first step to take. Simply letting them know you care can mean the world for anyone struggling with depression, because it reminds them they aren’t alone. Those dealing with depression usually feel very isolated, so a simple text, phone call, visit, or video chat can really make a positive difference. You may find the other person just needed to know someone is thinking of them, or they may open up about what they’re feeling. Don’t feel bad if they don’t totally open up though; sometimes they may feel better just hearing from you and don’t feel the need to say more. If you’re worried how to begin the conversation, a simple “how have you been?” can be a great place to start.

Give Them Suggestions

Your loved one may not be ready to get professional help just yet, but there are still things they can do on their own. Self-care is one way to tackle negative feelings while at home. Suggest some of the things you know they love to do. For example, if your loved one enjoys painting, show your support by buying them a painting kit. Now, just because it’s called self-care, doesn’t mean it’s about being alone. Suggest doing something together. Maybe the both of you have a movie night or go to the beach for a day. This goes hand in hand with reaching out. Not only are you providing your loved one with some much-needed company, but also giving them the chance to do something fun and uplifting at the same time.

Seek Professional Help

If your loved one’s depression persists – and especially if it continues to worsen – it’s crucial to seek professional help. While some people will actively seek out help for depression on their own, it can also take a nudge from others to point them in the right direction. Even though the person may recognize their depression, it might not be so easy to admit they need help. If you know your loved one won’t do the work themselves, help them research. Either together or on your own, look at different treatment options and consider ones that you feel will be the most successful, especially long-term.

With depression rates steadily rising – especially in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic – it’s important to regularly check in with the people in our lives. The truth is we may not even know a loved one is struggling with depression, and if they are, we can be an important source of support and help.

About The Author

John R Montopoli is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor who has worked in the mental health field for more than 20 years helping college students and adults, of all ages. He uses a combination of empathy and evidence-based therapies to help his clients who live with anxiety disorders, depression, work stress, obsessive compulsive disorder, specific phobias, life transition issues, and sexual identity issues.