Help depressed family member

SAMHSA’s National Helpline | SAMHSA

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  • SAMHSA’s National Helpline is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.

    Also visit the online treatment locator.

SAMHSA’s National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357) (also known as the Treatment Referral Routing Service), or TTY: 1-800-487-4889 is a confidential, free, 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year, information service, in English and Spanish, for individuals and family members facing mental and/or substance use disorders. This service provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations.

Also visit the online treatment locator, or send your zip code via text message: 435748 (HELP4U) to find help near you. Read more about the HELP4U text messaging service.

The service is open 24/7, 365 days a year.

English and Spanish are available if you select the option to speak with a national representative. Currently, the 435748 (HELP4U) text messaging service is only available in English.

In 2020, the Helpline received 833,598 calls. This is a 27 percent increase from 2019, when the Helpline received a total of 656,953 calls for the year.

The referral service is free of charge. If you have no insurance or are underinsured, we will refer you to your state office, which is responsible for state-funded treatment programs. In addition, we can often refer you to facilities that charge on a sliding fee scale or accept Medicare or Medicaid. If you have health insurance, you are encouraged to contact your insurer for a list of participating health care providers and facilities.

The service is confidential. We will not ask you for any personal information. We may ask for your zip code or other pertinent geographic information in order to track calls being routed to other offices or to accurately identify the local resources appropriate to your needs.

No, we do not provide counseling. Trained information specialists answer calls, transfer callers to state services or other appropriate intake centers in their states, and connect them with local assistance and support.

  • Suggested Resources

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    It's Not Your Fault (NACoA) (PDF | 12 KB)
    Assures teens with parents who abuse alcohol or drugs that, "It's not your fault!" and that they are not alone. Encourages teens to seek emotional support from other adults, school counselors, and youth support groups such as Alateen, and provides a resource list.

    After an Attempt: A Guide for Taking Care of Your Family Member After Treatment in the Emergency Department
    Aids family members in coping with the aftermath of a relative's suicide attempt. Describes the emergency department treatment process, lists questions to ask about follow-up treatment, and describes how to reduce risk and ensure safety at home.

    Family Therapy Can Help: For People in Recovery From Mental Illness or Addiction
    Explores the role of family therapy in recovery from mental illness or substance abuse. Explains how family therapy sessions are run and who conducts them, describes a typical session, and provides information on its effectiveness in recovery.

    For additional resources, please visit the SAMHSA Store.

Last Updated: 08/30/2022

8 Ways to Help a Friend or Family Member With Depression


Learn how to lend a hand when someone you care about is depressed.Getty Images

Depression doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It causes a ripple effect that touches everyone surrounding the person. Family members and friends often feel helpless, not knowing how to reach out or what to do to help their suffering loved one.

It would be nice if the depressed person could vocalize their needs, so that friends and families knew exactly what to say and do. However, according to J. Raymond DePaulo Jr., MD, a former professor of psychiatry and the director of the affective disorders clinic at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, their relationship skills are significantly diminished. Communication becomes problematic because the person is embarrassed to say how they feel, anticipating judgment.

How does a family member proceed, then, with little or no direction? Every individual is different in how they handle the beast of depression, but here are a few universal things you can try that will empower both you and your loved one toward recovery and hope.

1. Educate Yourself About Depression and Other Mood Disorders

You may not be able to cure your loved one. But you can better understand his or her condition by educating yourself about depression or the kind of mood disorder he or she has. Reading up on your loved one’s illness will help you feel more in control of the situation and give you more patience to tolerate the confusing or frustrating symptoms.

Here are some places to start:

  • Families for Depression Awareness helps families recognize and cope with depression and bipolar disorder to get people well and prevent suicides. They offer education, training, and support to unite families and help them heal while coping with mood disorders.
  • Depression Bipolar Support Alliance Family Center is a place of “compassion, hope, and understanding” that provides a wide variety of family-focused resources and information, such as How to Help Someone in Crisis, Help With Symptoms and Treatment, and Help With Relationships.
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness Family Support Group is a peer-led support group for family members, caregivers, and loved ones of individuals living with mental illness. You can gain insight from the challenges and successes of others facing similar circumstances.

2. Ask Questions and Dig for the Root Cause

The best way to understand a subject is to research it like a journalist and ask a lot of questions. With depression and anxiety, asking questions is critical because the terrain is so vast and each person’s experience is so different. Chances are that your friend is not going to voluntarily cough up the information that you need, because he or she is too ashamed of the symptoms and afraid he or she will be judged. To better know what’s going on, you must dig for the information. Here are a few questions to consider:

  • When did you first start to feel bad?
  • Can you think of anything that may have triggered it?
  • Do you have suicidal thoughts?
  • Is there anything that makes you feel better?
  • What makes you feel worse?
  • Are you under stress?

You know your sister, friend, brother, or father better than most mental health professionals, so help them solve the riddle of their symptoms. Together consider what could be at the root of their depression: physiologically, emotionally, or spiritually. Where is the disconnect?

3. Help Them Identify and Cope With Sources of Stress

It’s no secret that stress is a significant contributor to depression. Chronic levels of stress pour cortisol into your bloodstream and cause inflammation in your nervous system and every other biological system. In a study of rats published in May 2017 in Scientific Reports, conducted by researchers at universities in Aarhus and Aalborg, Denmark, stress was shown to reduce the brain’s innate ability to keep itself healthy. The hippocampus, which regulates mood, shrinks, negatively impacting our short-term memory function and learning abilities.

Stress also interrupts healthy coping strategies, which makes a person more vulnerable to mood swings. Your job is to help your loved one identify sources of stress in his or her life and brainstorm about ways to reduce it. These don’t have to be dramatic changes. Small tweaks to your day, like employing some deep breathing techniques, can go far in reversing the detrimental effects of stress.

4. Encourage Them to Seek Out a Support Group

It doesn’t matter what the illness is — cardiovascular disease, colon cancer, fibromyalgia — a person needs support in her or his life to fully recover: people with whom they can vent and swap horror stories, folks who can remind them that they are not alone even though their symptoms make them feel that way.

Research shows that support groups aid the recovery of a person struggling with depression and decrease chances of relapse.  The New England Journal of Medicine published a study in which 158 women with metastatic breast cancer were assigned to supportive-expressive therapy. These women showed greater improvement in psychological symptoms and reported less pain than the women with breast cancer who were assigned to the control group with no supportive therapy. Brainstorm with your friend on ways to get more support. Research and share with your friend various groups (online or in town) that might be of benefit.

5. Remind Them That They're Incredibly Strong

“When you’re depressed, you don’t believe that you’re worthy of love,” explains Dr. DePaulo in Understanding Depression: What We Know and What You Can Do About It. That’s what makes relationships and especially communication so difficult. One way of nudging them to recovery is by reminding them of their strengths. Use concrete examples. Cite times in their lives they exemplified courage, stamina, compassion, integrity, and perseverance. Use photos, if you have them, of accomplishments in the past or victories that will bolster their confidence and encourage them down the path of healing.

6. Make Them Smile, Because Laughter Helps and Heals

As I mentioned in my post "10 Things I Do Every Day to Beat Depression," research says that laughing is one of the best things we can do for our health. Humor can help us heal from a number of illnesses. When I was hospitalized for severe depression in 2005, one of the psychiatric nurses on duty decided that one session of group therapy would consist of watching a comedian (on tape) poke fun at depression. For an hour, we all exchanged glances as if to say “Is it okay to laugh?” The effect was surprisingly powerful. Whenever the “black dog” (as Winston Churchill called depression) has gotten a hold of a friend, I try to make her laugh, because in laughing, some of her fear and panic disappear.

7. Let Them Know They Won't Always Feel This Way

If I had to name one thing a person (or persons) said to me when I was severely depressed that made me feel better, it would be this: “You won’t always feel this way. ” It is a simple statement of truth that holds the most powerful healing element of all: hope. As a friend or family member, your hardest job is to get your friend or brother or dad or sister to have hope again: to believe that they will get better. Once their heart is there, their mind and body will follow shortly.

8. If You Do Only One Thing, Let It Be Listening

You could disregard everything I’ve written and just do this: Listen. Suspend all judgments, save all interjections … do nothing more than make excellent eye contact and open your ears. In her bestselling book Kitchen Table Wisdom, Rachel Naomi Remen writes:

"I suspect that the most basic and powerful way to connect to another person is to listen. Just listen. Perhaps the most important thing we ever give each other is our attention. And especially if it’s given from the heart. When people are talking, there’s no need to do anything but receive them. Just take them in. Listen to what they’re saying. Care about it. Most times caring about it is even more important than understanding it."

Important: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not Everyday Health.

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How to help a loved one get out of depression

August 4, 2015 Advice

When in a loving couple one of the partners gets depressed, it's hard for both. Sad days come, each of which brings new grief and may be the last for this relationship. But if you stop blaming your partner for a depressed mood and try to help, then depression will recede, and your union will only strengthen.

The word "depression" has recently stuck in my teeth. It is used everywhere. They denote a protracted bad mood, it is used in jokes and memes. In fact, when true depression comes to your loved one, for some reason it becomes not at all funny, but rather sad and even scary. nine0003

You see the changes that happen to your partner: nothing pleases or surprises him, he can lie in bed all day, he is not interested in your conversations and attempts to entertain him. And you are simply torn apart by the influx of thoughts and emotions. Are you the cause of the depression? Maybe the relationship is over? How long will this continue and how can you help?

Depression is a dark experience for a couple. But you can pass it successfully. In this article, we will talk about how to help a partner and save your union. We're touching on the delicate topic of mental health, so you should understand that you don't have to blindly follow all the recommendations. Think about which ones and how you can use them for your couple. nine0003

Don't take the symptoms of depression personally

Most of the symptoms of depression make your couple the opposite of a happy union. A person in depression has a distorted perception of reality: even positive and joyful moments appear to him, if not in black, then definitely in gray.

Of course, he does not want to go out, go on dates, talk for hours and have sex. But these are generally accepted indicators of a good relationship. It is unlikely that one of your friends says: “We have such a wonderful couple! My beloved comes home in the evening, stares silently at the iPad for three hours, and then goes to bed without saying a word!” nine0003

Therefore, having noticed changes in your partner's behavior, you make the only correct conclusion, as it seems to you: he has lost all interest in you. Your friends will actively confirm this guess if you describe the situation to them.

The danger of depression is also in its invisibility. If a person has a broken leg, he also cannot walk and have a lot of sex, but everyone can see why - here is the cast. We cannot point a finger at the internal state, therefore we explain external changes for ourselves in the most common and simple way: love has passed. This conviction is further strengthened if you see that with other people your partner continues to behave as before, and alone with you - it deflates like a balloon. Literally, Darling's blog claims it's actually good:

Literally, Darling


We almost always take the constant bad mood of a loved one at our own expense. You begin to feel that you are the cause of the oppressed state. A depressed person cannot behave as usual, and even more so with loved ones who know him thoroughly. While among strangers, he can pretend for a short time that everything is in order.

Naturally, it hurts you to see how your partner behaves quite normally with others and completely changes around you. But, surprisingly, this is a good sign. This means that he completely trusts you, loves you and allows himself to reveal what is really in his soul. If he sometimes tries to push you away, do not be offended, move away, but stay close. nine0003

Depression can affect a person for many reasons: illness or death of loved ones, one's own poor health, problems at work, difficulties with relatives or friends. But its symptoms will affect you first of all: he will suddenly become bored talking to you, he will not want to go somewhere or even watch TV shows in the evening.

If you can't get rid of the idea that your partner just doesn't want to be with you, ask him directly. And when he answers that it's not about you, accept this answer, calm down and start solving the problem of his poor moral health together. nine0003

Work together to develop a depression recovery plan

Don't take the symptoms of depression personally, but don't ignore them either. Yes, your partner is not showing any romantic feelings right now, but he will still be hurt if you dismiss his condition. If your loved one is sick or injured, you do not blame him, but take care of him and help him recover. Do the same with depression.

In fact, for someone who is trying to cope with a depressed state of mind, relationships are a huge help. But only if you are moving in the same direction and acting together: you need to understand your partner and take practical steps together. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America offers a variety of techniques to deal with depression: studying your condition, setting goals, recording results. However, the best method of treatment is joint work with a loving person. nine0003

American Depression Association

Mental health professionals are increasingly recommending couples and family treatment programs. After training with a doctor, a partner or family member can help the patient at home, that is, provide round-the-clock therapy for him. The "house doctor" should be near the patient in situations that exacerbate anxiety and bad mood, and support him by reducing anxiety.

Your partner may not want to be treated. In this case, you can not press on him and rush him. You can support, but not force. You can try to start by looking for a good doctor together or reading articles about treatment. The main thing for the two of you is to understand that you are together and you are moving in the same direction. nine0003

If your efforts are thwarted by your partner's stubbornness, if he rejects your support and is sure that he does not need help, then decide for yourself whether you want to continue in this relationship and wait for positive changes, or do you not have the strength for this? But do not be a tractor for your partner, he must only understand and accept that he needs help.

Leave your partner some space.

Treatment for depression will always be messy. It's like letting your cat stomp around in paint and then run across a white sheet. It seems that your treatment plan has been worked out to the last detail, the goals have been set, everything is neatly recorded in the observation log, and you are cheerfully moving along the right path. nine0003

But one morning the patient wakes up and feels hopeless... Everything is bad, so much hard work has been done, but nothing helps, the soul is still empty and terribly sad. It would be better now to curl up in a ball of sadness and renounce the whole world.

This happens, and it is natural. But at these moments you want to either give your patient a good kick so that he stops sour, or completely abandon the treatment, because it does not bear fruit. Take your time, one bad day is not the end of the world. Although your love will not be the main cure for depression, it is still important for the patient, says psychotherapist Rita de Maria. nine0003

Rita de Maria


Your partner needs your love, your presence, your warmth. It won't stop depression, just as it won't, for example, lower blood sugar or relieve arthritis pain. And yet, your feelings can change the “broken” processes in your partner’s head, revive his positive thoughts and raise his self-esteem during this difficult period.

Depression radically changes the habitual life. What made you happy ceases to make you happy; what fascinated or interested now does not evoke even a drop of emotions. The presence next to someone who accepts this state without judgment or resentment is very supportive and even inspiring. nine0003

Set limits to save yourself

It is always very difficult to support a depressed person. Sometimes the overexertion will reach proportions that will endanger your own mental health. There is no need for sacrifices like: “I will do everything so that my loved one is healthy.” When helping a partner, set clear boundaries for your presence, do not completely dissolve in his state. Leave time for your hobbies, meetings with friends, and just to be alone. nine0003

Sure you want to help. But you don’t need to subordinate your life to your partner’s depression, for this you will pay with the stability of your morale. You may even refuse to be your loved one's "home therapist" if you feel that this is too much for you.

There are other ways to help: remind the patient to fill out a logbook or take medicine, encourage him to go to the doctor or persuade him to the next session of psychotherapy. But don't lay everything on the altar of his illness, he has to do something too. nine0003

And this is not cruelty, not a manifestation of dislike. You need to take care of yourself, otherwise you both may find yourself in a pit of hopelessness. You can be a very loving partner, but if you play with one goal, and your patient does not want to do anything, then this will give rise to grief and resentment, which will lead to the destruction of the union.

Allow yourself to speak up when you are unhappy with something, do not be afraid that you will cause a relapse and worsen the condition of your loved one. Of course, some minor upsets can be “preserved” in yourself, but be sure to talk about significant grievances. nine0003

At the end of this article, I would like to write: we hope that our advice will not be useful to you, because you and your loved ones will always be in a cheerful mood. In any case, always remember that everything in life changes, and if you have a dull gray streak, then it will definitely end.

For family and friends

For family and friends - iFightDepression [EN] Zur optimalen Präsentation der Website muss JavaScript in den Einstellungen ihres Browsers aktiviert sein. nine0002 Depression is a worldwide disease affecting more than 300 million people. Depression is different from normal mood swings and short-term emotional responses to everyday problems. Depression is the result of a complex interplay of social, psychological and biological factors. (World Health Organization, WHO, 2017). Depression is a disease that affects not only the psyche or the brain, but the whole body, eating habits, sleep habits, feelings for oneself and others, and thoughts. This is not a temporary, normal state of mind, and not a sign of personal weakness, not a state from which you can simply “break out”. nine0003

In general, anyone can suffer from depression: men and women of all backgrounds, all occupational groups and any stage of life. Even people who seem to lead carefree and happy lives can suffer from depression.

Depression is treatable. If you think you are suffering from depression, seek help.

I'm worried about someone close to me...

If you think that someone you know may be suffering from depression, you may feel anxious, fearful, or frustrated. nine0003

Read more...I'm worried about someone close...

Become informed

Depression is very common: in fact, it is one of the most common mental illnesses. One in four or five people will experience depression at some point in their lives.

Read more...Get Informed nine0003

How to identify the symptoms?

Depression is a disease that affects not only the thoughts or the brain, but the whole body, affecting how a person eats, sleeps, feels himself, and thinks about things.

Read more... How to identify the symptoms?

Depression is treatable

Treatment for depression is essential for most people with depression, as it is likely that depression will worsen if left untreated. nine0003

There are many effective treatments to help people suffering from depression and many effective strategies that can be used to manage the illness. Also, there are many health professionals and many services available for support and adequate specialized care.

Read more. .. Depression is treatable

Optimal treatment

If your loved one is not feeling well and is not able to seek help himself, if you are also in doubt whether he needs help / treatment or not, then take a self-diagnosis test on this site, and if the result is positive, go to our section on treatment depression in the "For all" tab.

If clinical confirmation is needed, the first step is to convince your family member/friend to see the nearest doctor (most often a GP). nine0003

Read more...Optimal treatment

What could I do?

As a friend or family member, there are many things you can do. Based on the information provided here, you may want to tell your family member or friend about depression.

Read more... What could I do? nine0003

Take care of your mental health

A diagnosis of depression can be a source of concern, and therefore, the support of family and friends can play an important role in recovery.

Learn more