How to Help Someone Suffering with Depression

by BrendaReeves

Helping a loved one in mental distress can be as simple as listening and showing them appreciation and providing them with help on day to day tasks.

People who experience depression often benefit from the compassion shown by a trusted friend or relative. Many individuals feel uncomfortable interacting with someone who is depressed. They don't know what to say or do, so they avoid that person. Others become impatient and make statements like "snap out of it" or "It's time to pull up your big girl panties." People don't choose depression, and they can't snap out of it. If you want to help someone suffering from depression, offer them emotional and practical support.

Active Listening

Sometimes it's not what you say but what you don't say. A depressed person needs someone to listen to them and validate their feelings. Let the person talk, cry or rage if they must. When you do talk offer reassurance by saying something like "Tell me about it," or "It's alright to cry." You can ask questions that help them sort out their feelings, "What's really bothering you?" or "Why do you think you are feeling like this?". What you do say can help them open up and express their feelings. Tell them that you're available to talk and listen at any time.


Depressed individuals lack self-confidence due to being out of control of their lives. You can encourage them through praise. Point out their positive qualities and accomplishments and reassure them that these low feelings are temporary. Invite them to take a walk even if it's just to the corner. The next day see if they can make it half-way around the block and around the whole block the following day. Give them lots of praise for their accomplishments no matter how small.

Comforting Touch

Human touch can make a person feel secure, safe and loved. A touch on the hand or a hug can go a long way to communicate positive feelings to the depressed person. If this individual is someone with whom you have a close relationship, you could offer to massage their head, feet, hands or shoulders. Use your judgment when touching the depressed person. Some people do not like being touched due to past trauma.


Laughter is the best medicine may be cliche but it's true. Rent a funny movie, pop some popcorn and spend some time having a laugh fest. Laughter releases mood lifting chemicals in the brain and relieves stress. If time permits, offer to spend the day throwing a comedy marathon. If the person can concentrate enough to read, buy them Harpo Speaks as seen below. I read it years ago, and it's by far the funniest book I've ever read. If your friend or relative can't concentrate, try reading it to them, and you can roll in laughter together.

The Funniest Book You'll Ever Read

Harpo Speaks!

Everyday Living

If your friend or relative is depressed to the point of being dysfunctional, the simplest tasks can be impossible to perform. Offering to cook, clean or grocery shop can relieve the person of a lot of stress. If there are children to care for, offer to babysit. Take the kids to the park and out for ice cream. A child with a depressed parent feels alone and abandoned.

Depressed individuals want to isolate themselves from the world, but this is the one time in their lives when "alone time" won't benefit them. If you know of a depressed friend or relative, the simplest acts of kindness can go a long way to helping that person recover. At this time, they need someone to actively listen to them and not pass judgment. Validating their feelings, reassuring them and offering a comforting touch can help them on the road to recovery. Invite them to laugh with you. For the severely depressed, help them out with their everyday responsibilities. Remember that the children of depressed parents need love and comfort also. Encourage the person to seek medical treatment if they have not already done so.

Updated: 09/23/2012, BrendaReeves
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BrendaReeves on 12/20/2012

Thank you frugal. I've had plenty of experience with depression. My mother suffered with severe depression without treatment until she was 80 years old. I called her doctor and gave her a rundown of the problem. She placed her on meds, and for the first time in her life she wasn't depressed. I was hospitalized about 10 years ago. I was having suicidal thoughts and had come up with a couple of plans. I knew I could go to a hospital emergency room and I did. Depression is a terrible misunderstood disease.

My friends have lost parents recently and are having a hard time with it. My best friend says she feels like an orphan. You hang in there. You'll start feeling better soon. God Bless you.

Guest on 12/20/2012

What a great topic to bring up. I've been absolutely depressed (you know my mom passed away this year) which was more attributed to grief, yet hurt just the same. But I've worked in the mental health field, too - and your article's focus on OUR role helping those depressed is so important. Being in the presence of someone who is depressed can be frightening for the when they hear "I'm ok" or "I don't need anything" they can sometimes "run" with clear conscience and feeling relieved. But make no mistake that is the only language a depressed individual knows how to speak. So though we cannot "cure" a depressed person (meaning, be a friend and support but don't carry the burden), don't stop calling, stopping by, talking with the individual. It is hard to witness but the isolation of depression needs persistence from good friends. Great article!

BrendaReeves on 11/11/2012

Men are the worst about getting treatment. They see it as a weakness and aren't about to admit they are depressed.

katiem2 on 11/11/2012

I see, I think this was the case. I've been thinking about it a lot feeling bad because she and I are so close yet I did not note the signs. I think Mom's, and Daughters have care for others for so long they become very good at putting on a good front or face all the while their in dire need of help.

BrendaReeves on 11/11/2012

That's a good doctor she has. Depression is very treatable and many times people have it and don't realize what's wrong with themselves.

katiem2 on 11/11/2012

My friend just called last week to tell me she had just been diagnosed with clinical depression and prescribed Wellbutrin, or how ever you spell it. Honestly I had no idea she was depressed. I felt really bad about that but she went on to say the dam finally broke and she just couldn't fake it any more. Luckily she went to a routine doctors appointment, they now ask a series of questions to check for depression and she was an EPIC case of full blown depression, she fell apart in the doctors office as they ran down the series of question she related to it was then she understood the degree to which she was ill. Thankfully her doctor is taking steps to note patients who are suffering from depression.

BrendaReeves on 10/07/2012

Thank you for the comment, Mira. It's hard to understand depression if you've never experienced it yourself.

Mira on 10/07/2012

I never thought much about a connection about being depressed and the feeling of not having control over certain things, but this could be true of some states of depression. I can see it in two very close people in my life. It's really sad when dealing with huge crises, and it also happens that some people want to control smaller things as well, and for them it's just as big when they can't.

BrendaReeves on 10/02/2012

You are welcome. Luckily, depression is very treatable.

happynutritionist on 09/24/2012

All of this is so true, being on both sides of who struggles with it and one who is friend to people who do. Thank you for the helpful tips and book suggestions.

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