How to help someone with depression

Supporting someone with depression

If you live with someone who is depressed, it can be very hard. Depression tends to last for some time and can be as draining on people around the person who is depressed as it is for the person themselves. You can most help by spotting the signs early and helping them decide if they need to seek professional help.

Signs of depression

You may notice that your loved one:

  • always appears to be sad or anxious
  • shows a loss of self-confidence and self-esteem
  • appears restless and agitated
  • is unable to enjoy things that are usually pleasurable
  • has difficulty concentrating, remembering details or making decisions
  • feels guilty, worthless and/or helplessness
  • admits to sleeping problems – insomnia, waking up much earlier than usual, or sleeping too much
  • avoids other people, sometimes even close friends and family
  • finds it hard to function at work/college/school
  • either overeats or has lost their appetite
  • has persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps or digestive problems
  • has thoughts about suicide and death.

 (Symptoms list from the National Institute of Mental Health)

Please see our page on the signs of depression for more details.

Recognising depression

Sometimes when we are depressed, we are not able to spot the signs early enough and we dig ourselves in deeper. A friend or family member may be able to help by noticing the signs and discussing them with the person.

You might find that they are able to talk about their problems and have simply been bottling them up so as not to bother you.

Often people who get depressed think that they should be able to solve their own problems and they are ‘weak’ if they cannot.

What can be done to help

You can make them aware that you are there to help if they need it. You can also help by encouraging the person to do things you know they use to enjoy, maybe taking them out for walks or going round to friends with them. Don’t push them too hard though and try to find a pace that suits them.

Depression can sometimes be due to relationship issues. If you recognise that there are problems in your relationship with a partner who is depressed, talk to them about this and decide between you if there are issues you need to discuss and resolve. You may also be having difficulties with your children. This can put stress on a relationship. There are organisations, such as Relate, that can help you discuss issues both as a family and as a couple.

You should also make sure that you look after yourself. Having a partner or a close friend who is depressed, particularly if they are self-harming or suicidal can be extremely difficult emotionally. You care for the person and want to help but too much time in their company can become emotionally draining.

You need time to switch off and have fun and not feel guilty in doing so. You need to show as much care and concern for yourself as your partner or friend. Make sure you continue to do the things you enjoy and seek the support of your own social and family networks. 


SANELine gives help and advice out of hours to those who care for people with mental health problems aswell as the sufferers themselves, their number is: 0845 767 8000

Further reading

For more information on depression, please visit:

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