How to support a loved one living with depression

How to support a loved one living with depression

For people living with depression, life can feel very lonely and confusing. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 300 million people around the world are living with depression.1 That’s a lot of people struggling every day to keep their heads above water. What’s more, there is a lack of understanding of depression. Depression is, in fact, treatable. It's important to note that depression symptoms are not the same for everyone1, and the only way for a diagnosis and effective treatment to be recommended, is through a doctor's evaluation.2 A professional diagnosis is especially important, as depression symptoms are similar to the signs of other medical conditions like a vitamin deficiency, thyroid issues and even a brain tumour.2 The most common symptoms associated with depression are2,

  • Changes in a person's appetite2
  • Loss of interest in activities that used to bring joy2
  • Problems sleeping, either too little or too much sleep2
  • A loss of energy2
  • Unusually irritable3
  • Trouble concentrating.3

People living with depression often isolate themselves from family and friends, who don’t understand what it is they’re going through. To support a loved one, it’s important to learn more about depression and equip yourself with the necessary tools, to better understand what they’re going through. This will also open the door to a more meaningful conversation on depression.1 Here are a few ways you can support a loved one living with depression.

Show up
Being there for a person living with depression is significant.You don't have to say anything, but just being in their company will make a positive impact.3 Listen to what they say, validate their feelings and ask questions,1it will help them feel seen. Even a gesture like assisting with household chores or cooking a meal together3 can make them feel better, even if just for a little while.

Take care of yourself
As important as it may be for you to support your loved one living with depression, it's equally important to take care of yourself.1 Focusing only on your loved one's needs and neglecting your own, won't do either of you any good. Set boundaries for yourself, and don’t neglect your commitments. Let your loved one know when you’re not available, but also be there when you said you would be.1 Being an emotional support is a big responsibility. Share the load with family and friends and set-up a schedule of when all of you can be available to support your loved one.1 This will also demonstrate they have a support network to count on.1

Educate yourself on depression
Educate yourself on the symptoms, causes and treatments for depression.1 There is nothing as mentally and physically exhausting for the person living with depression having to answer the same questions over and over again.

Find professional support for your loved one
Some people living with depression don't always know where to get help. And if they do, it may be difficult for them to commit to seeing a medical professional.1 Help them by researching and reviewing different medical professionals, make that first appointment1 and maybe even take them to their first session. Don't criticise a person living with depression when they feel their treatment isn't working3, or they want to give up. Continue to be supportive and patient.3 At the end of the day, it is your love and support they’ll remember and be grateful for. Encourage your loved one to join an online community like the Our Mental Health Facebook page, which offers support for people living with mental health illnesses. You can also visit this page to learn more about the causes, challenges and treatment options available to people living with a mental illness.

  1. Healthline. How to help a depressed friend. Accessed on 30 October 2019.
  2. American Psychiatric Association. What is depression? Accessed on 30 October 2019.
  3. Psych Central. 9 best ways to support someone with depression. Accessed on 30 October 2019.


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