How to help someone with depression feel better

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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.

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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.

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How to help a person with depression

Among relatives and friends of any person, people suffering from depression can meet. The help and support that a healthy person can provide to another person tormented by a depressive disorder is invaluable; the main thing is to do it as efficiently as possible and at the same time avoid common mistakes.


  • 10 tips for helping a loved one with depression
  • What not to do
  • When intervention is needed
  • Crisis Support

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, more than 300,000,000 adults and children worldwide are living with depression worldwide. But not everyone experiences depression in the same way, and symptoms can vary from person to person.

If your friend or relative has a true depressive disorder, they may have specific symptoms, such as:

  • the person becomes sad, tends to cry;
  • depressed people seem more pessimistic than usual, or who have lost all hope of the future;
  • the patient often begins to talk about his feelings of guilt, spiritual emptiness or his own worthlessness;
  • people with depression lose interest in communicating with others, begin to seek loneliness;
  • such patients are easily upset or become extremely irritable;
  • their general tone decreases, patients move slowly or seem to be generally limp;
  • they lose interest in their appearance or neglect basic hygiene, such as regular showering and brushing their teeth;
  • depressed patients have trouble sleeping or sleep much more than usual;
  • patients care much less about their usual activities and interests;
  • they become forgetful, have trouble concentrating or problem solving;
  • depressed patients often eat more or less than usual;
  • is often spoken of as death or suicide.

Below are 10 tips for helping a loved one with depression, as well as a few tips on what to avoid when dealing with someone with depression.

1. The importance of listening to others

Tell a friend or loved one that you would like to help him or her in some way. You can start a conversation by sharing your own concerns and asking a specific question. For example: “You seem to be having a hard time lately. What happened that worries you? Keep in mind that your friend may really want to talk about how he feels, but at the same time, he may not want advice from others. A simple tactic of talking with the patient will help to better understand his condition, his mental problems:

  • Ask questions to get more information, instead of "thinking out" what the patient's messages mean.
  • Make it clear to the interlocutor that you are dealing with his problems. You might say, “It really does sound like you have a problem. I'm sorry to hear this".
  • Show empathy and concern with your body language, that is, with appropriate movements and gestures. Your friend may not feel like being open about their problems right away, so it's worth continuing to talk to them about your concerns and desire to help from time to time. Keep asking open-ended questions (without being too pushy) and express your concerns. Try to keep conversations exclusively in private, tête-à-tête, whenever possible. If you live in different regions, try video chatting.

2. Help the person find qualified support

Your friend or relative may not know they are dealing with depression or may not be sure where or how to seek help. Even if he understands that therapy can help him solve problems, he may hesitate to start looking for a doctor and visit him for a long time. If your friend is interested in counseling, offer to help them find potential therapists. You can help your friends or loved ones make a list of questions to discuss with the doctor and identify the most pressing issues that they should definitely remember during the first visit. Encouraging and supporting the patient in finding a doctor and scheduling a date/time visit to his office is of great importance for the success of the treatment, especially when the patient does not dare to do it on his own.

3. About supporting the patient during the course of therapy

On a particularly difficult day, your friend may not even feel like leaving the house. Depression can drain energy and increase the desire to self-isolate. If a friend or loved one starts saying things like, "I don't think I'll be going to psychotherapy anymore," start encouraging them to keep going.

You might say, “Last week you said that the treatment session was really productive, and after that you felt much better. What if today's session also significantly improves your condition?

The same applies to drugs. If your friend wants to stop taking medication because of unpleasant side effects, encourage him not to break his prescribed medication regimen, but at the same time start encouraging him to talk to his psychiatrist about switching to another antidepressant or stopping the drugs completely. Abruptly stopping antidepressants without permission/supervision from a healthcare professional can have serious consequences.

4. Don't forget to take care of yourself too

When you are caring for someone who is living with depression, it is tempting to drop everything to be close to the person who is depressed and provide them with all kinds of support. If you want to help a friend, it's a noble gesture, but it's also important to take care of your own needs. If you begin to give all your energy to support a friend or loved one, you will have very little self-care left. And if later you start to feel "burnt out" or exhausted, this will not help your friend much.

Benefits of setting boundaries in communication

Setting boundaries can help you maintain your strength. For example, you can tell your friend that you can talk to him when you get home from work, but not before. If you're worried that a loved one or friend will worry about not being able to contact you, offer to help them come up with a contingency plan should they need to communicate with you during the work day. This may include looking up a hotline number they can call or a code word they can send you in a text message if they have a moment of crisis. You can suggest to the patient that you will visit him every other day or have lunch or dinner with him twice a week, instead of trying to help daily. Inviting other friends can help build a great support network.

Take care of your own emotions

Spending a lot of time with a loved one who is depressed can cause emotional loss. Determine your limits on experiencing difficult emotions and make sure you have the time and opportunity to regenerate your soul. If you need to let your friend know that you will be unavailable for a short period of time, you can say something like, “I can't talk on the phone at certain times. But then I will definitely call you.

5. Raise your own awareness of depression

Imagine having to educate every person in your life about your mental or physical health problems - explaining it over and over again. It would become too exhausting for you. You can talk to your friend about his specific symptoms or how he is feeling, but avoid asking him to tell you about depression in general. Read on your own about depression symptoms, causes, diagnostic criteria, and treatments.

Although people experience depression differently, becoming familiar with common symptoms and terminology can help you have deeper conversations with your friend.

6. Offer help with daily life

Depression can make daily tasks seem overwhelming. Really simple things like doing laundry, grocery shopping, or paying bills can get left undone and start to pile up, and it ends up making it really, really hard to decide where to start. Your friend may appreciate the offer of help, but at the same time, it is also possible that he will not be able to clearly say what exactly he needs help with. So instead of telling the patient, "Let me know if I can do something," you should ask him, "What exactly do you need help with most today?" If you notice his fridge is empty, say, "Can we go shopping together, or will I buy what you need if you write me a list?" A perfectly acceptable option is: "Let's go grocery shopping and cook dinner together. "

If your friend has stopped doing the dishes, if he has a lot of dirty laundry or other unfinished household chores, call him, turn on the music and do the work together. Your presence and assistance will make it easier for him to do the job and it will not be given to him by an impossible task.

7. Inviting guests can improve the mood of the patient

People living with depression may find it difficult to maintain relationships with friends and make plans for the future or stick to them. But canceling plans can contribute to the feelings of guilt that are common in those who suffer from depression. Refusal of invitations can lead to a decrease in their number, and this can increase the patient's self-isolation. This in turn can worsen the symptoms of depression. You can help put your friend at ease by continuing to send out invitations to visit, even if you know for sure that he's unlikely to have to. Tell him that you understand that he may not follow through when he is especially depressed and there is no pressure on your part for him to come over until he is in the mood to do so. Just remind a friend or relative that you are always happy to see them whenever they feel like it.

8. Be patient

Depression usually improves with treatment, but it can be a slow process that usually involves trial and error. Your friend and doctor may need to try several different approaches to counseling or medication before they find the best option. Even successful treatment does not always mean that depression is completely gone. Your friend may still have symptoms from time to time. Because of this, he will have good days and bad days - that is, days with a more or less normal or depressed mood. Avoid assuming that a good day means the friend is "completely cured" and try not to get frustrated if a series of bad days gives the impression that your friend's condition will never get better. Depression has no clear recovery timeline. Expecting your friend to return to their normal self after a few weeks of therapy is not a realistic approach to this illness.


Stay in touch

Reminding your friend that you care about them can help improve outcomes. Even if you can't spend a lot of time with your friend on a regular basis, keep in touch with them regularly via text, phone, or short visits to their home. Just by sending a short text with the message: “I think of you and care about you”, you can significantly improve your mood. People who live with depression may become more withdrawn and avoid socializing, so you may find that the situation requires you to make more efforts to maintain friendships. But the fact that you continue to be present in your friend's life as a positive character can go a long way towards improving his condition. Remind yourself regularly to your friend during his treatment for depression.

10. Depression can come in many forms

Depression often involves sadness or low mood, but it has other, less well-known symptoms. For example, many people do not realize that depression can have the following manifestations:

  • temper tantrums and irritability;
  • confusion, problems with memory or concentration;
  • excessive fatigue or trouble sleeping;
  • physical symptoms such as indigestion, frequent headaches, or pain in the back and other muscles.

Your friend may often be in a bad mood or feel exhausted for a long time. Try to understand that what he is feeling is still part of the depression, even if the symptoms do not fit into the stereotypical manifestations of this illness. Even if you don't know how to help your friend feel better, just tell them, “I'm sorry you're feeling bad. I'm here to help you if there's anything I can do" and maybe that will help.

What not to do

1. Don't take things too personally

Your friend's depression is not your fault, nor is it his fault. Try not to let it affect you if he seems to lash out at you in anger or frustration, keeps canceling plans (or forgets to follow up), or avoids a lot of work. You may need to take a break from your friend at some point. It's okay if you're feeling emotionally drained, but it's also important to avoid blaming your friend or saying things that might contribute to negative feelings. Instead, consider talking to a therapist or other person about how you feel.

2. Do not try to correct the patient's behavior

Depression is a serious mental health disorder that requires professional treatment. It is difficult for a person who has never had depression to understand exactly what the patient feels. Clinical depression is not just a mood swing that can be improved with phrases like "you should be grateful for the good things in your life" or "just stop thinking about the sad things." If you don't want to say something vulnerable to someone who is living with a severe physical illness like diabetes or cancer, you probably shouldn't say that kind of thing to your friend with depression either. Positive support can let your friend know that they really matter to you.

3. Don't give unsolicited advice

While certain lifestyle changes often improve symptoms of depression, making these changes is difficult in the midst of a depressive episode. You may want to help a friend by offering advice, such as exercising more or eating healthier foods. But, even if it's good advice, your friend may not want to listen to it at the moment. There may come a day when your friend wants to find out what foods can help with depression or how exercise can relieve symptoms. However, by this time, it may be best to stick to empathic listening and avoid offering advice unless he asks for it. Encourage positive change by taking a depressed friend out for a walk or cooking delicious meals together.

4. Don't belittle the patient's symptoms

If your friend is talking about depression, you can say something like, "I understand" or "We've all been through this." But if you've never dealt with depression, it can reduce your empathy to a minimum. Depression goes beyond just feeling sad or depressed. Sadness usually goes away fairly quickly, while depression can linger and affect mood, relationships, work, school, and every other aspect of life for months or even years. Comparing what a depressed person is going through to other people's troubles, or saying things like, "But it could have been a lot worse," usually doesn't help. Your friend's heartache is what is real to him. Say something like, “I can't imagine how hard it is to deal with this. I know I can't make you feel better, but remember that you are not alone."

5. Don't comment on prescription medications

Medicines can be very helpful for depression, but they are not for everyone. Some people have a very hard time with the side effects of antidepressants and prefer to treat their depression with psychotherapy or natural products. Even if you think your friend should be taking an antidepressant, remember that medication choice is a personal decision. Also, if you personally do not believe in medicines, avoid discussing this when talking to the sick. For some people, medication is the only way to start the steps towards recovery. In the end, whether or not to take antidepressants is a very personal decision for the patient, which he usually has to make on his own after a detailed conversation with the doctor.

When Intervention Is Necessary

Depression can increase a person's risk of suicide or self-harm, so it's good to know how to recognize the danger signs. Below is a list of some of the signs that may indicate the presence of suicidal thoughts:

  • frequent mood or personality changes;
  • talk or death;
  • acquisition of weapons;
  • increase in alcohol consumption or initiation of drug use;
  • risky or dangerous behaviour;
  • disposal of own belongings or distribution of property;
  • talking about feelings of being trapped or wanting to end all problems at once;
  • self-isolation;
  • too expressive farewell after each meeting.

If you think your friend is thinking about suicide, ask him to call his therapist while you are with him, or ask your friend for permission to call his doctor instead.

Crisis Support

You can also take your friend to a mental health emergency room. If possible, stay with him until he has no more suicidal thoughts. Make sure he can't access weapons or drugs. If you're worried about your friend's mental state, you might start to worry that mentioning it might make them think about suicide. But in general it will be useful to discuss this complex situation. Ask your friend if he is seriously considering suicide. He may be tempted to talk to someone about it, but he doesn't know how to start a conversation on such a difficult subject. Encourage your friend to talk to their therapist about these thoughts if they haven't already. Invite a friend to help you create a special safety plan (crisis plan) that he can use in case of obsessive thoughts about suicide.

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to the list of articlesKnow the doctor

What to do if a loved one is depressed: psychologist explains

Reason and feelings

How to behave if a loved one is depressed? Psychologist explains

Adriana Imzh

14 December 2016 14:31

Afisha Daily continues to ask for advice from psychotherapist Adriana Imzh. This time we figure out how to behave if your friend, relative or loved one is depressed: is it worth feeling guilty for what is happening, will support and participation help him, and what to do if you are angry with him.

Writer Ella Derzai, when reading psychological materials on this topic, suggested replacing the word "depression" with the word "leprosy" - simply because many journalists do not try to understand the meaning of this word. It seems to me that this approach well illustrates the difficulties of getting the name of the disease beyond the boundaries of psychiatry (when the word begins to denote a number of things that have nothing to do with the original problem). Imagine materials like "Ten Hot Drinks for Leprosy" or "How to Avoid Winter Leprosy?"

So what is depression? Depression is very different.

First, there are three levels of depression—mild, moderate (clinical), and severe (chronic). Mild depression usually goes away on its own in 2-3 months, medium depression can go away on its own or turn into severe depression, if it goes away on its own, then in six months to a year. As a rule, mild and moderate depression can be treated with a psychologist without the use of drugs, but with the use they are faster and easier.

You can no longer confuse severe depression with spleen: a person has a difficult time when he takes great care of himself, including in the sense of hygiene, it is difficult for him to get up, wash dishes, brush his teeth, clean the apartment, leave the house . In very bad situations, he forgets to eat and may die of hunger.

There is a masked depression - this is a depression in which a person is overly cheerful and constantly busy with something so as not to feel how bad he is, how tired and sad he is. This usually leads to a breakdown and the transition of depression to a severe stage.

Depressions are also of different types according to sensations. For example, asthenic depression is a severe loss of a resource due to (usually) heavy workloads and stress. It is characterized by an unpleasant feeling of a weight hanging from you, an inability to rejoice (you wake up in the morning - and it feels like you just worked two shifts in the mine).

Anasthenic depression, or depression with derealization, is characterized by a feeling that the world is not real, the walls are cardboard, the view outside the window is drawn, feelings have died out forever, the world has frozen. This type of depression can also accompany more severe mental diagnoses, such as schizophrenia. Also, depression can be with bipolar disorder - and in the other pole, a person is cheerful and full of energy.

Depression can be caused by a hormonal imbalance after childbirth or due to menopause and aging (in a number of modern countries, antidepressants are automatically prescribed for older people). Such depressions include, for example, postpartum depression.

Endogenous depression is caused by internal biochemical processes in the body, usually leads to lifelong medication, because the body is simply not able (or has lost this ability) to produce the necessary substances on its own. Sometimes - very rarely - such depression leads to such severe conditions that it may be the basis for euthanasia in countries where this is possible.

Atypical depression is usually accompanied by a number of other symptoms that are uncharacteristic of ordinary depression, such as severe anxiety, increased appetite (usually in patients before taking antidepressants, their appetite is just reduced), severe somatic pain.

Depression also differs in causes. Psychogenic depression is caused by severe stress, and psychotypical depression is caused by a predisposition of the nervous system and head injuries.

Also, depression can be childish and adolescent (in this category of patients, it usually occurs as a result of severe trauma - a terrible divorce of parents, school bullying, natural or man-made disasters, wars).

This is our set - quite diverse in terms of reasons, ages, statuses and manifestations.

Finding recommendations for relatives of all patients with depression is quite difficult. Therefore, it is probably worth starting with an understanding of what kind of depression your loved one has, how long it lasts and what is needed for it to pass.

For example, with asthenic and psychogenic, as well as with childhood and adolescent depression, rest and recovery, love and support of loved ones, hope - hope is very necessary - and faith in a brighter future. Over time, the body will recover itself. And while he is recovering, in general, the approach is the same as with a severe flu - remind him to take pills, hold his hand, stroke his head and sympathize with what is happening.

In more severe cases, care is very much needed: people in this state really find it difficult to do even household chores, and when taking antidepressants, when the body begins to recover, drowsiness also increases (and, as a rule, libido is depressed). Therefore, such things as many hours of sex, extreme sports, a trip to Burma for a week, snowball fights and long shopping trips will not lead to the fact that Princess Nesmeyana will come to life, but to the fact that she will turn into the shadow of Hamlet's father, which can only cursing indistinctly. He will also get sick for sure with something - from a banal cold to some exotic inflammation of the Achilles tendon and neuralgia.

If you are not the cause of depression in a person (you have not betrayed, you have not divorced, you have not tried to drown yourself in acid in a Joker costume), do not blame yourself. Depression, like cancer, is caused by a complex combination of different factors, and you are probably not the most important person there.

On the contrary, the ability to stay with a person in depression without depreciation (are you completely lazy?) is a jewelry art that is far from accessible to every person, even if he has a special education.

And it seems to me that an important factor in being around a depressed person is taking care of yourself. Remember that living next to someone who is constantly worried, afraid, or crying is also not easy. Do not lock yourself at home with him, otherwise depression will defeat you too. Look for support in work, friends, trips to nature (if it makes you happy), shopping, skydiving, watching funny comedies - in general, do not forget about yourself. Your life goes on - as does the life of a person with depression.

Don't forget about responding to aggression. If you are an ordinary active person who is used to living and enjoying life, then a slow, whiny, tired and weak person, who at the same time has not lost either arms or legs, will cause you a lot of irritation.

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