How To Support a Loved One Going Through Depression

by | Jul 22, 2022 | Articles, Depression

With over 17 million American adults suffering from major depressive disorder (1), it’s not unlikely that you may know someone who is currently living with this condition. Although professional treatment is invaluable in helping depressed individuals recuperate and heal, friends and family members can also provide the much-needed support that will make their day-to-day lives a little easier to manage. It can be difficult to know what to do, especially if you haven’t experienced depression before. This article will offer you actionable steps and advice that will help you properly care for and support your loved one.

Understand The Symptoms

By now, you may be familiar with the most common signs of depression – sadness, lack of motivation, and feelings of hopelessness. Although these are fairly easy to identify, other signs may not be so obvious or can be easily misinterpreted. Oftentimes, depression will come out as aggravation, anger, and irritability. It is important for you to remember that aggressive or snappy remarks toward you should not be taken personally. You may have just caught your loved one in a moment in which they were distressed, so even if their aggression is directed toward you, the reason for their anger may not be your fault at all. (2)

To learn more about other symptoms, you can look up informational articles that will help you better understand the condition of your loved one. You will find valuable resources on our own website as well as on the website of the NIH (National Institute of Mental Health).

Be Conscious Of How You Communicate

Even if you can’t understand the reason why your loved one feels the way they do, or you think that they shouldn’t feel so depressed over “x”, it’s critical that you not use language that will invalidate their feelings. For example, you should avoid utilizing phrases like:

– “It’s not that bad.”

– “It could be a lot worse.”

– “Some people have it worse than you and they’re fine.”

– “Just try thinking more positively.”

This will make your loved one feel like they aren’t allowed to feel the way they do. Even though it is true that someone will always have it worse and might be handling the situation more positively, it doesn’t change the fact that your loved one’s feelings are real and shouldn’t be dismissed.

Instead, you can say things like:

– “You’re not alone. I’m here for you.”

– “Please tell me how I can help you.”

– “Tell me how you’re feeling.”

– “You’re important to me. Your life is important to me.”

Using language like this will show your loved one that even if you don’t truly understand their feelings, you acknowledge them, love them, and want to help in any way you can. (3)

Offer To Help With Daily Tasks

It can be hard for depressed individuals to feel motivated to complete certain tasks, or they may become easily overwhelmed with everything they need to do. If you are able to lend a hand with daily tasks, that would be a great help for your loved one. If you are available, you can offer to help them with tasks such as doing the dishes, cleaning the house, folding laundry, and cooking. A little bit of help can go a long way and will reduce the stress of your loved one. (4)

Make Flexible Invitations

Depression can make it difficult for individuals to reach out to friends and family. They may feel nervous about trying to make plans if they feel like they might need to cancel because of their mental state. Even if they feel up for the plans at the time in which they’re made, when the day comes, they may feel differently.

A great way to help your loved one with this is to ask if they’d like to go out or do something fun together, without setting anything in stone. Clearly express that you completely understand if they don’t feel up to it the day of the plans and that it’s okay to reschedule for a different day when they’re feeling better.

Expressing that you want to spend time with them will make them feel loved, as sometimes depressed individuals may feel reluctant to spend time with others because they don’t want to drag the mood down. (5)

Inspire Them To Take On A Healthy Lifestyle

Numerous studies have shown that exercise not only benefits the body but also the mind. Regular exercise has been demonstrated to aid with depressive symptoms, stress, sleep, and even improve one’s self-esteem. All forms of working out are beneficial, but some good examples of moderate exercises include:

– biking

– low-impact aerobics

– light jogging

– walking

– yoga (6)

It can be challenging for even someone who isn’t depressed to get started on a workout routine. If you are able, offer to exercise with them. Having you by their side will improve the chances that they’ll stick with it and have a more enjoyable time overall.

You can also encourage them to eat a more balanced diet. A recent study revealed that poor diets can negatively impact people’s moods. More specifically, diets that mainly consist of processed foods are linked to the development of depression. Although it is not necessary for them to give up certain foods completely, cutting back on the following may help your loved one’s mental state:

– sugars and sweeteners

– soda and energy drinks

– processed meat products

One of the diets health experts recommend is the Mediterranean diet, which is rich in legumes, beans, vegetables, whole grains, and fish. This type of diet has been linked to improved mood. (7) As with exercise, you can help them along on their journey to a healthier diet by joining them during mealtimes in which you are available.

Encourage Treatment

If your loved one is not currently seeking psychological or psychiatric treatment, encouraging professional help will be key in aiding with their recovery. This step can be particularly challenging. Your loved one may feel that seeking help is pointless since they may think there is no hope for their condition to improve. A simple way to approach this is to encourage your loved one to get a general check-up with their family physician. The doctor can diagnose their depression and refer your loved one to a reputable psychologist or psychiatrist. Another thing you can do is offer to search for a treatment provider on your own since doing so may be very overwhelming and even exhausting for your loved one. (3)

Pay Attention To Signs Of Suicidal Intentions

Although it may be difficult to accept that your loved one may have thoughts of harming themselves, depression can be so intense that suicide may sometimes be seen as the only option to escape it. You must pay close attention to what your loved one is saying and how they are behaving. Some behaviors to watch out for include:

– talking about hurting themselves or ending their lives

– expressing thoughts of hopelessness

– speaking negatively about themselves

– partaking in self-destructive activities

– seeking substances such as pills

– seeking out weapons or potentially lethal objects

– saying goodbye to family members, friends, and other individuals in their circle

– displaying sudden, unexplained calmness

If your loved one displays any of these warning signs, bring it up to them immediately. Waiting to see if those behaviors appear again can, unfortunately, mean waiting too long, and by then, it may be too late. It is, of course, a stressful discussion to have with your loved one, but emotional support at the moment can help save their life. If you feel like your words aren’t getting through to them, seek help as soon as possible. You can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for immediate assistance (800-273-8255). (3)

Take Care Of Yourself

Spending time with someone who is depressed may impact your own feelings and state of mind, especially if that person is someone you really care about. It’s essential that in the process of taking care of your loved one you also look out for yourself and make sure you’re okay. Furthermore, it will be hard for you to help your loved one when you aren’t feeling well yourself. (3)

You can do this by simply finding some time for yourself. You can partake in activities that you enjoy or even go out for a walk and spend some time in nature. Being surrounded by nature can help calm your mind and reduce your stress. (8) Never feel guilty about needing some time for yourself or prioritizing your own well-being.


Having a family member or friend that is going through depression can be stressful for you and everyone else around them. It can be tough to know what to do in times when your loved one is visibly upset, and it’s true that you can only do so much, but as long as you’re there for them and are being supportive, that can be more than enough. Remember to use gentle language as words can be much more harmful to a depressed individual. Encourage them to take care of themselves in any way they can, make plans with them even if you know they may fall through, pay attention to how they’re feeling, and most importantly, show them how much they mean to you and how much you love them.




~ Paola Caamano

Paola is a passionate writer with an M.A. in Communication and a B.A. in Psychology – both obtained from Kean University. With an unwavering commitment to growing her skillset, she aims to expand her professional horizons by taking on new challenges. In her spare time, she enjoys drawing, reading, playing video games, and watching k-dramas with her dogs.






more related articles

Hope for Treatment-Resistant Depression

Depression is a common and often debilitating mood disorder that affects millions. It is a significant global public health problem, and in the United States, 8.4% of adults and 17% of adolescents had at least one major depressive episode in 2020, with many of these...

Toxic Masculinity: Causing depression in men

“Man up!” “Boys don’t cry!” “Don’t be such a girl!” Sound familiar?  These are just a few of the toxically masculine insults that are proliferating within our current culture and society.  Men experience these types of sentiments daily. What’s worse, is so...

Suicide: The Other Pandemic

For the majority of us, September marks the start of Autumn. A long-awaited season bringing brisk air, warm apple cider, and the beautiful turning of leaves. But we mustn’t forget. It is also a month dedicated to the cause of suicide awareness and prevention, hence,...

Is it Depression or ADHD? You Could Have Both

Both Depression and Attention Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are very commonin our population. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH, 2021) shows statistics that theprevalence of the current adult population in the United States with ADHD is 4.4%; for...

Bipolar 1 Vs Bipolar 2, What’s the Difference?

Bipolar disorder is a severe chronic mental illness that affects millions of Americans today. It is a complex disease with various symptoms that can cause a multitude of issues for those that live with it. What makes bipolar disorder even more complicated is the fact...

Why Are Women More Susceptible To Depression?

Extensive research has revealed that one in eight women develop depression at some point in their lives, which is twice the rate of cases compared to men. (1) But why is that? What makes women more vulnerable to this condition? Before explaining the significance of...

Too Close to Home: Filipino Suicide and Depression

Many Asian Americans, especially Filipino Americans, struggle with mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, and suicide. In fact, young Filipina women experience greater suicide ideation (45.6%) compared to other minorities (Javier et. al 2018). However, despite...

Antidepressants: How Does It Treat Depression?

A Word on Pill Shaming             There are a number of reasons that prevent people from seeking, and ultimately receiving mental healthcare. Clearly, structural barriers contribute to these cases (i.e. some tangible lack of access to medicine). More subtle but no...

The Neuroscience of Depression

What is Depression?  One of the world’s leading causes of disability, depression is a mental illness that is frequently experienced with symptoms of dejected moods, disinterest, excessive self-criticism, and many others. Given the pervasiveness of depression as an...

How To Talk To Someone Struggling With Depression

There are many symptoms of depression, including loss of energy, loss of appetite, negative thoughts of death or self-harm, lack of motivation in school and at work, weight loss or gain, difficulty sleeping, feelings of worthlessness, negative mood, irrational...

Why is anxiety so paralyzing?

“Why is anxiety so paralyzing?” If there is such a thing as various degrees of literal, I would say there should be a spectrum to define how deeply a life has been interrupted, paused, and frozen still. In my experience, it can be so physically paralyzing you would...

4 Lesser Known (But Effective) Psychotherapies For Anxiety

What if I told you, anxiety was an epidemic. In fact, according to NAMI, “Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health concern in the United States. Over 40 million adults in the U.S. (19.1%) have an anxiety disorder.” Most people are treated with Cognitive...

3 Powerful Ways To Stop Anxiety Now

Let’s Get Started. Anxiety affects everyone on planet Earth, everywhere from San Jose, California to San Jose, Costa Rica. It’s a part of being alive. It’s part of the human experience. But, it doesn't have to be. At least, not to the extent it plagues most...

How to Cope with Anxiety During Covid-19

We are all living in a critical time right now. Whether we are one of the hundreds of thousands affected with COVID-19, a loved one of someone affected, a health professional at the front lines, or like the majority, at home or working an essential job, doing the most...

How Sleep Deprivation Can Increase Your Anxiety

Anxiety is a pervasive problem that can be difficult to diagnose and treat. People try everything from pharmaceutical remedies to therapy, natural remedies, supplements, meditation, and more. Some find relief from their anxiety, but others continue to struggle, no...

The Psychology of Addiction

  Addiction is described as a condition in which a person engages in the use of a substance or in a behavior for which the rewarding effects provide a compelling incentive to repeatedly pursue the behavior despite detrimental consequences. An addiction can...

Everything Can Be Addictive: Part 1

Blog Title: “Addicted” Means Everything After the death of my older brother who died from overdose to guaifenesin, also known as Mucinex, I was shocked and appalled to see how many people were uneducated as to what an addiction is, including the authorities and...

Rehab, Prison, or Death: Why Rehab Doesn’t Always Work

When you think of rehab, you probably think of those lavish centers advertised on day-time television or the late and great Amy Winehouse’s single Rehab, where she testifies she’ll never go back and there’s nothing she has to gain from sitting in therapy for 10 weeks....

Which is Better? Luxury Sober Living vs Government Funded Homes

Sober living homes are used for people who want to maintain abstinence from alcohol and drugs. It can be difficult to return to a home environment that is not drug and alcohol free. Sober livings create a supportive place for recovering addicts to live during their...

What is a Panic Attack?

What is a panic attack? How long do they last? Are they scary? A panic attack is psychological and is an overreaction of your adrenal system. A panic attack can happen within a moment’s notice. They occur because there is a sense of danger and your mind and body start...

How Does Attention and Imagery Ability Relate to Emotion?

It seems evident that the depth that individuals feel and emotionally respond toward stimuli ebbs and flows. Consider, for example, how a person experiences deep elation and joy when listening to their favorite song yet later experiences a dulled affective response...

Mental Health IS physical Health, Exercise Boosts both!

Mental Health IS health. I’ve always said that, because it’s the truth. We can’t separate the two. Just like physical health IS health, mental health is health. I could actually argue that mental health might be even more so, since every single function in our body...

Mental Health Disparities in the LGBTQI+ Community

Among the many health disparities, a glaring one is the higher rate of mental health disorders in people who identify as part of the LGBTQI+ community. Widespread social and political discrimination have caused disproportionately high rates of poverty, homelessness,...

May- Mental Health Awareness Month Multidimensional Awareness

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Which means that there is a lot of extra focus on mental health, mental illness, and breaking the stigma surrounding these two very important topics. We use that word a lot- “awareness”, but so many people don’t fully understand...

Hope for Treatment-Resistant Depression

Depression is a common and often debilitating mood disorder that affects millions. It is a significant global public health problem, and in the United States, 8.4% of adults and 17% of adolescents had at least one major depressive episode in 2020, with many of these...

Toxic Masculinity: Causing depression in men

“Man up!” “Boys don’t cry!” “Don’t be such a girl!” Sound familiar?  These are just a few of the toxically masculine insults that are proliferating within our current culture and society.  Men experience these types of sentiments daily. What’s worse, is so...

“Self Love” in the East VS west

“Self Love” has become one of the catchiest concepts being thrown around in Western society, a terminology seemingly present now everywhere we look; on billboards, all across our social media feeds, in meditation practices and therapy practices. It is now a popular...

Suicide: The Other Pandemic

For the majority of us, September marks the start of Autumn. A long-awaited season bringing brisk air, warm apple cider, and the beautiful turning of leaves. But we mustn’t forget. It is also a month dedicated to the cause of suicide awareness and prevention, hence,...

Somatization and Asking for Help: How Asian Populations Respond to Psychological Stress

The intricate mechanisms of the body alone, are quite remarkable; but once we add the functionalities of the mind to the mix, the body often succumbs to the mind’s agency in decision- making, be it conscious or sub-conscious. Although quite awesome and intricate to...

Getting Comfortable Outside of Your Comfort Zone

If you struggle with anxiety, depression, or self-doubt, you’ve likely struggled with stepping outside of your comfort zone. It makes sense - comfort zones lack variability - they are familiar, they are controllable, they are, well, comfortable. While we all deserve...