Supporting Someone Who Is Experiencing Depression

Depression is a significant mental health concern that can be challenging for the individual experiencing it, as well as those around them. If you are supporting someone who is experiencing depression (or you suspect they might be experiencing depression), you may be unsure of how you can help.

Signs and Symptoms of Depression

First, it’s important to understand what it means to have depression. Depression is more than just a sad mood. It’s a mental health condition that impacts a person’s ability to function day-to-day and usually lasts longer than two weeks. Knowing the symptoms of depression can be helpful to understand and support those around you. Common symptoms include:

While these are common symptoms, people can experience depression differently. A trained mental health professional can diagnose and help treat depression. Counseling and/or medication are often part of the plan for managing the symptoms. There is hope for healing, even though it may not feel that way in the moment, especially for the individual experiencing depression.

How to Provide Support and Encourage Treatment

Talk to the person about your concerns and what you have noticed. Often people don’t realize when they are depressed and think the feelings are normal, or they may feel shame and mistakenly believe they can get over it on their own. However, experiencing depression is not a sign of shortcomings on the part of the individual. Compassionately share your concerns with the person to create a space where they feel safe to open up.

Encourage them to seek professional help. Suggest that they call their doctor or a mental health provider for additional help. If they are covered by an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), that could also be a resource. Depression is a mental health condition that normally requires treatment to get better.

Listen openly to their experience with depression. Giving advice, making judgements, and pushing positivity (i.e., saying things like “just think positive”) can be more harmful than helpful. Ask them to help you understand their feelings and communicate about what type of support is most valuable to them. Sometimes, listening and being understood and supported by someone else can be healing in itself.

Understand suicide risk. People with depression have a higher risk of suicide. If someone is showing signs of suicide, take them seriously. Help them contact their doctor, a mental health provider, a family member, or the national Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 or If there is imminent danger, you may need to call 911 on their behalf.

It may take time. Depression can improve with treatment, but it can also take time to get there. For some, the fear of making that first call can take time to overcome. Then, finding the best treatment may require time to try more than one approach. Remember to be patient and empathetic as the individual goes through the process, as progress is not always linear.

Practice self-care. When supporting someone who is experiencing depression, it’s also important to remember to take care of yourself. It can be challenging to offer help when you are feeling overwhelmed or stressed.


Sources: (1) Mayo Clinic. (2018, November 28). Depression: Supporting a family member or friend. Retrieved from (2) National Alliance on Mental Illness. (2017). Depression. Retrieved from

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