Depression image courtesy of Flickr/Lulu_Sunset

There is an abundance of information you can find to learn about depression and its symptoms if you have been diagnosed with it, but what if you find yourself in the complicated and stressful position of trying to help a friend or loved one with this mental disorder? How do you help a friend with depression? What do you say to them? Should you treat them differently? Will it affect your relationship with them?

Depression affects all aspects of a person's life, and it generally wreaks havoc on personal and professional relationships. Friends, family members, and work colleagues alike tend to find themselves feeling either frustrated, guilty, confused, or at a loss when it comes to their depressed loved one. Fortunately, there are things you can do – and things you should avoid – to help your loved one while they work their way through their problems. The following is a guide for the Dos and Don'ts of how to help a friend with depression.

Click one of the following links to skip ahead:

DO: Listen!

DON'T: Minimize Their Feelings

DO: Gently Encourage Them to Seek Help

DON'T: Force Them

DO: Encourage Physical Activity

DON'T: Avoid Them

DO: Be Patient and Understanding

DON'T: Always Assume it is Depression

Conclusion

DO: Listen!

If there is just one thing you take away from this article, the hope is that you learn to listen to your depressed loved one. Simply by spending less time offering suggestions and more time asking questions and absorbing their answers, you can help comfort a depressed person and make them feel appreciated, valued, and less alone.

Depressed people often feel misunderstood, lonely, and unimportant. They often find it hard to express themselves as well. By putting real energy into compassionately listening and paying attention to your depressed loved one, you will be providing them with the comfort to express themselves genuinely, while also making them feel important and less isolated.

While simply feeling less isolated can be helpful for a friend with depression, there is an enormous amount of evidence that shows actually being around others and having a social support system is vital for coping with depression. However, this is not an excuse to force your depressed friend into social situations if they choose not to be involved – that would make you a bad listener!

Talk Less, Listen More to Be the Friend of a Person With Depression | The Wall Street Journal

Being Social: A Key to Depression Recovery | EverydayHealth.com

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DON'T: Minimize Their Feelings

You may not understand why your friend is depressed. You may not be able to understand it. You may even disagree with the reasons they give you about why they might feel the way they do, but that does not make their reasons or their feelings invalid.

One of the most difficult things about treating and understanding depression is the fact that each individual person is different and is affected by depression differently. Even if you, or many others, have been through what they are going through, it does not mean they will deal with it the same way, and it does not lessen their experience.

Therefore, while you may not understand or agree with their issues, it is important not to minimize or discredit their feelings. Do not say things like, “We all feel like that sometimes,” or “You'll get over it,” or “You have nothing to be sad about.” They do have something to be sad about, regardless of what you think.

Stop Minimizing Mental Illness: Worst Things to Say | HealthyPlace.com

8 Things You Should Never Say to Someone Suffering From Depression | Prevention.com

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DO: Gently Encourage Them to Seek Help

If you really want to help a friend with depression, find a careful way to encourage them to seek professional help from a counselor, therapist, or psychiatrist. While having friends to talk to is an important factor in recovering from depression, a professional can provide a safe place for your friend to open up about things they might normally avoid. More importantly, professionals are trained to spot specific patterns, are equipped to deal with unique situations, and have access to resources that your friend may need.

Antidepressant medication, although a controversial topic, is one of many resources that may be needed to help your depressed friend, and only a licensed professional can prescribe medication. You! Drugstore offers a variety of safe and effective medications to treat depression for those with a valid prescription, including Prozac, Zoloft, Wellbutrin, Pristiq, Effexor XR, and amitriptyline.

So how do you encourage a friend to see a therapist for depression? Remember to listen, and do not minimize their feelings. Wait for the right time to gently suggest they seek professional help in a caring and non-confrontational manner. Help them understand the benefits of therapy and help them see the common myths of therapy. You can also offer to help them look for a therapist, and even offer to go with them to their first appointment. They may not be ready for therapy just yet, and that is okay too. Which brings us to our next point.

9 Myths and Facts About Therapy | PsychCentral.com

Taking Antidepressants: Myths vs. Facts | HealthCentral.com

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DON'T: Force Them

If you really want to help someone with depression, one of the worst things you can do is force them to talk about things or be in situations that they really do not want to. Although you may mean well, and your intentions may be for the greater good, it will likely serve only to turn your friend off from seeking help. Not only that, but it will also strain your relationship with them and build a barrier between you and your loved one.

Forcing someone to talk or be in certain situations often causes reactance in many people, especially depressed people. Reactance is a psychological term that essentially means your loved one may automatically start behaving the opposite to how you want them to behave in an effort to feel a sense of freedom. Forcing a depressed person to talk about or do something can also cause their symptoms to worsen. A better approach is to remain supportive. Always remind your depressed friend that you are there for them if they need you.

By simply reminding your friend that you are available to them if they need you, rather than forcing the situation or having an argument, it can help build an open connection that may ultimately encourage them to seek help. When they can see that you are genuinely and respectfully concerned about them, your depressed friend is likely to be more open to suggestions or getting the help that they need.

When Hospitalization is Needed for Depression | WebMD

Social Support is Critical for Depression Recovery | PsychCentral.com

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DO: Encourage Physical Activity

Often overstated, equally underestimated, physical exercise is one of the most natural and effective ways of treating depression. In numerous studies, physical exercise has been shown to be on par with antidepressant medication. Moreover, physical exercise improves overall health by strengthening the heart, increasing energy levels over time, reducing stress, lowering blood pressure, and improving sleep.

Try inviting your depressed friend out for a game of soccer, a night of dancing, a nice brisk walk, or even just a short game of catch. A good way to sneak in some exercise is by offering to go with them to walk around your local mall and catch up on some window shopping. Do not force them if they do not want to, though! Instead, warmly maintain an open invitation.

Many people, including those suffering from depression, simply do not know how to properly exercise. It is likely the last thing they may want to do, but you can try offering to work out with your depressed friend, or even consider joining a gym together. Doing physical activities together not only fights depression, but it also builds your connection to each other. This brings us to our next Don't.

Depression Health Center: Exercise and Depression | WebMD

The Mental Health Benefits of Exercise | HelpGuide.org

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DON'T: Avoid Them

As mentioned previously, there is an enormous amount of evidence that shows how important a social support system is for someone with depression. Isolation and loneliness contributes much to the symptoms of depression. This does not mean you should force them into social situations or discussions – as also previously mentioned – but it does mean that you should not avoid them. If you do not remain open to your depressed friend, and they begin to feel shut out, their symptoms may become worse.

Think of it from their perspective. They are likely having a tough time opening up about certain topics, or maybe they do not even understand what is troubling them. When they finally try to open up to you, it is important that you are available and open-minded to what they have to say.

It can be confusing, difficult, stressful, and frustrating, but it is important that you do not avoid them or shut them out. Supporting a depressed friend can be frustrating. Offering social support does not always mean you have to actively engage with them, but to support someone with depression, do not turn your back on them when or if they open up to you.

9 Best Ways to Support Someone with Depression | PsychCentral.com

The Purple Elephant in the Room: Talking to Someone With Depression | HealthCentral.com

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DO: Be Patient and Understanding

There is no quick fix for depression. There is no switch that your friend can flick and turn it off. Recovering from and treating depression can be a long and ongoing process, which can be hard on those trying to help a loved one with depression. As outlined above, trying to help a friend with depression can be frustrating and difficult. You have to always remember that one of depression's major symptoms is that it affects personal and professional relationships.

That being said, you need to be patient and understanding. Your friend may not make the same decisions that you would, they may make decisions that frustrate you, and they may not heed your advice. Do not hold it against them.

Remember that arguing with your depressed friend may only serve to push them further away from you, and deeper into depression. Instead, be respectful, be open-minded, be nonjudgmental, and be available. Keep in mind that things you think are simple may feel next to impossible for a depressed person, and may stress them out.

Living with a Depressed Person | UndoingDepression.com

For Relatives and Friends – How to Help a Depressed Person | AllAboutDepression.com

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DON'T: Always Assume it is Depression

Is it depression, or is your loved one grieving? Are they depressed, or are they suffering from fatigue? We all feel down from time to time, and some of us even go through periods of lower mood than usual. Although the lines can appear blurry, depression has clear boundaries. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) has clear guidelines that health care professionals use to help determine a diagnosis of depression. Their training also provides insight into whether your friend may be suffering from depression or some other issue.

A common tool used to gauge someone's depression is the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI). The BDI is a multiple-choice questionnaire that can help measure the severity of your depression. Generally, depression is diagnosed if symptoms persist for a certain amount of time and all other conditions have been ruled out.

Therefore, do not just assume your friend is depressed when there may be other issues at hand. A general rule of thumb is to consider that it may be depression if symptoms persist for longer than two weeks. If you are unsure and worried about your loved one, speak to your doctor for more information.

Depression Tests and Diagnosis | MayoClinic.org

Worried About Someone? | StudentsAgainstDepression.org

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Conclusion

In order to help a friend with depression, try your best to avoid arguments and confrontations. Instead, engage with them openly, ask questions, listen compassionately, be honest and genuine, do not minimize their feelings, encourage them to seek help, do not be forceful, encourage physical activity, do not avoid them, be patient, and be understanding. Follow through these Dos and Don'ts and help your friend on their road to recovery from depression.

If you or your friend have a prescription for antidepressant medication, or any other medication, you can order it online from You! Drugstore. We are a licensed online Canadian pharmacy, where you can buy your prescription medication at the same cost Canadians pay.

For more information on depression, check out the following links:

What is Depression? | WebMD.com

What is Depression? | DepressionTookKit.org

Depression Symptoms and Warning Signs | HelpGuide.org

20 Celebrities who Battled Depression | Health.com

Depression Stories | TheDepressionHopeCenter.com