How to Help a Person with Depression

There are many ways you can help a person with depression. In the following article, we'll offer 7 suggestions. Keep reading.
How to Help a Person with Depression
Laura Ruiz Mitjana

Reviewed and approved by la psicóloga Laura Ruiz Mitjana.

Last update: 15 March, 2023

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), up to 5% of the world’s adult population suffers from depression. This is a very common disorder, one that’s unfortunately widely misunderstood. In recent years, we’ve seen how awareness of them has increased, and with that in mind, we want to teach you how to help a person with depression.

This is one of the leading causes of disability worldwide, as well as one of the catalysts for suicidal thoughts. Women are more affected than men, and family and friends often don’t know what to do when faced with a diagnosis. Discover 7 ways to help a person with depression as well as some thoughts to keep in mind.

7 tips to help a person with depression

As the experts point out, recognizing the symptoms and being supportive are two timely strategies to help a person with depression. It’s also important to have an understanding of the disorder as a starting point. Depression isn’t a matter of simply being sad. This is a very complex phenomenon and one that’s essentially biochemical.

Finding out about what the disorder consists of and what its causes are is undoubtedly an obligation for anyone who wants to help a person with depression. There are many prejudices and misunderstandings about this and other disorders, so putting them aside is essential in order to offer timely help. Let’s see what you can do to help a person with the disorder.

1. Encourage them to receive treatment

Experts estimate that up to half of people with depression don’t seek professional help. They do so for various reasons, including a lack of motivation or hope in this regard (the result of the disorder itself), the social stigma around psychological support, the fear of being misunderstood, and the fear of social rejection, among others.

Despite all of this, the mediation of a professional is a safe, effective, and functional way to deal with depression.

To help a person with depression, you can encourage them to seek professional help. Be involved in the process if they don’t have the willpower. For example, locate various available options, schedule appointments, or accompany them to sessions. It’s likely that among all the suggestions on our list, this is the most important, so we urge you to consider it first.

2. Support them in their daily routine

To help a person with depression, you have to help them with their routines.
Being a good partner in activities as mundane as doing laundry can make a person with depression feel truly supported.

Untreated depression has a direct impact on a person’s work, academic, and personal environment. It alters the way in which they relate to others, manage day-to-day activities, and care for their personal integrity. Many patients neglect their health, diet, financial responsibilities, and commitments as a result of the disorder.

One way to help a person with depression in these contexts is to support them in their daily routine. Among other things, visiting them regularly to assess how organized their life is in general. If you detect some irregularity in this regard, however small, don’t hesitate to offer yourself as support. Acts as simple as doing laundry, paying bills, or tidying up the room can go a long way.

3. Be aware of certain patterns

Certain patterns indicate that the affected person isn’t following the treatment indicated by the specialist or that it’s not having the desired effect.

Fatigue, tiredness, impotence, low self-esteem, lack of motivation, problems concentrating, excessive worry, suicidal thoughts, and guilt are just some of them. Take them as a warning sign to act before they evolve to a more acute state.

In these cases, it’s important to speak with the professional about the fact that the treatment isn’t having the desired effect or that the symptoms have returned, and reinforce less invasive therapies to deal with the disorder. If you can, consult with the professional who’s treating the person with depression so that they’re aware of your concerns. You can also seek a second opinion if appropriate.

4. Avoid unnecessary comments

For example, saying phrases like “it’s all in your head”, “don’t be sad”, “try to look on the bright side”, “everyone goes through bad times”, “you’re exaggerating”, and the like are anything but helpful. It goes without saying that these words don’t have a positive impact and can even have the opposite effect. The person may isolate themself more, feel misunderstood by their close circle, and reduces their confidence toward you and others.

Most likely, no one who says these words does so out of malice; they only speak from ignorance. These kinds of phrases are frequent when the causes and consequences of something are ignored, leading to their underestimation. It’s for this reason that we’ve suggested at the beginning that you should be informed about the disorder, its symptoms, and its causes.

5. Promote distracting activities

To help a person with depression, you have to help them find distractions.
There are many ways to distract a person with depression, and exercise is one of the most beneficial in every way.

It’s proven that activities such as yoga can be used as complementary therapy for depression. Others, such as exercising, walking, mountain climbing, reading, meditation, breathing sessions, and other activities that are perceived as relaxing can accompany the main treatment.

Because of this, you can help a person with depression by planning or at least promoting distracting activities.

You can also encourage healthy eating, nightly rest, and low intake of caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, and recreational drugs. It’s not uncommon for patients to start these and other positive lifestyle changes and then abandon them, so make sure you’re there to reinforce them. You can actively promote them by accompanying those habits in which it’s appropriate to do so.

6. Be a good listener

Sometimes the best way to help someone with depression is to be a good listener. Listening to a loved one’s problems, concerns, anxieties, and frustrations is one of many ways to support them in the process. You keep them from feeling misunderstood, isolated, and lonely. In the presence of these variables, symptoms tend to worsen, and a greater tendency to abandon treatment is also reported.

7. Be patient

Coping with depression is a slow process. It’s full of relapses, good times, and bad times. With persistence, family members, close friends, and the company of qualified health professionals, it can be dealt with. It can take months or even years before you see an overall or permanent improvement, so be patient with the process.

Many psychologists recommend therapy for the patient’s family and close friends, as they’re also affected in one way or another by the diagnosis. Don’t close the door to this path. You can find other ways to help a person with depression.

  • Gulliver, A., Griffiths, K. M., Christensen, H., & Brewer, J. L. A systematic review of help-seeking interventions for depression, anxiety and general psychological distress. BMC psychiatry. 2012; 12(1): 1-12.
  • Langlands, R. L., Jorm, A. F., Kelly, C. M., & Kitchener, B. A. (2008). First aid for depression: a Delphi consensus study with consumers, carers and clinicians. Journal of affective disorders. 2008; 105(1-3), 157-165.
  • Kinser PA, Goehler LE, Taylor AG. How might yoga help depression? A neurobiological perspective. Explore (NY). 2012;8(2):118-126.

Este texto se ofrece únicamente con propósitos informativos y no reemplaza la consulta con un profesional. Ante dudas, consulta a tu especialista.