How can I give support to my depressed loved one?

Charles J. Sophy, MD
Adolescent Medicine

You can give support to your depressed loved one by:

  • Attending to his/her expressed needs and empowering him/her to meeting those needs him/herself.
  • Referring him/her for professional services and community support.
  • Showing empathy for him/her.
  • Availing yourself by being present with him/her.
  • Encouraging small activities to get him/her away from isolation/alienation.

Depression is a medical condition that requires treatment. Help your depressed loved one find, contact, and visit a doctor for treatment. You can help them cope with depression symptoms by listening and being patient. Acknowledge his or her sadness, but don't judge what they say or feel. Murali Rao, MD, professor and chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences, Loyola University Medical Center in Chicago, says, "Resist giving advice too quickly. Instead be with them and praise them for even minor accomplishments, especially when they're recovering.” Continue to include the depressed person in small activities like family events or short outings. “And help your loved one make decisions. Simple decisions become difficult -- like what to eat or where to shop -- when a person is depressed,” says Rao. Your help can make a big difference.

Kathy Sowder
There are many ways to support a loved one who is depressed. First, educate yourself on the symptoms of depression. Then try to keep an open conversation with your loved one about how they are feeling. Do not try to deny or minimize their feelings, but listen in a caring way. Find resources for help in the community, and encourage your loved one to go. Offer to take them. If they resist, ask them to commit to a time when they will go (eg." If you don`t feel better by Monday, will you commit to go?") Include them in activities. Let them know you will support them in feeling better, but do not enable them by doing things for them that they can do for themselves, or isolate with them.
To support your loved one who is depressed, help her with seeking resources and professional care. Depression can be painful and lonely. People who have it often feel hopeless and ashamed about their inability to "shake off" their sadness. What they may not realize is that, as with other illnesses, depression must be treated to get better. Assist your loved one in finding resources that can help her understand depression. Also encourage her to speak to a doctor or mental health provider. Offer to help make a list of questions to ask during the first medical appointment. Lastly, remind your loved one that you are there for her as she learns to manage her depression.

Continue Learning about Depression

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.