Your support and encouragement can play an important role in your loved one's recovery. Here's how to make a difference.
How can I help someone with depression?
Depression is a serious but treatable disorder that affects millions of people, from young to old and from all walks of life. It gets in the way of everyday life, causing tremendous pain, hurting not just those suffering from it but also impacting everyone around them.
If someone you love is depressed, you may be experiencing any number of difficult emotions, including helplessness, frustration, anger, fear, guilt, and sadness.These feelings are all normal.It’s not easy dealing with a friend or family member’s depression. And if you neglect your own health, it can become overwhelming.
That said, your companionship and support can be crucial to your loved one’s recovery. You can help them to cope with depression symptoms, overcome negative thoughts, and regain their energy, optimism, and enjoyment of life. Start by learning all you can about depression and how to best talk about it with your friend or family member. But as you reach out, don’t forget to look after your own emotional health—you’ll need it to provide the full support your loved one needs.
Understanding depression in a friend or family member
Depression is a serious condition. Don't underestimate the seriousness of depression. Depression drains a person's energy, optimism, and motivation. Your depressed loved one can't just “snap out of it” by sheer force of will.
The symptoms of depression aren't personal. Depression makes it difficult for a person to connect on a deep emotional level with anyone, even the people they love the most. It's also common for depressed people to say hurtful things and lash out in anger. Remember that this is the depression talking, not your loved one, so try not to take it personally.
Hiding the problem won't make it go away.It doesn't help anyone involved if you try making excuses, covering up the problem, or lying for a friend or family member who is depressed. In fact, this may keep the depressed person from seeking treatment.
Your loved one isn't lazy or unmotivated.When you're suffering from depression, just thinking about doing the things that may help you to feel better can seem exhausting or impossible to put into action. Have patience as you encourage your loved one to take the first small steps to recovery.
You can't “fix” someone else's depression. As much as you may want to, you can't rescue someone from depression nor fix the problem for them. You're not to blame for your loved one's depression or responsible for their happiness (or lack thereof). While you can offer love and support, ultimately recovery is in the hands of the depressed person.
Recognizing depression symptoms in a loved one
Family and friends are often the first line of defense in the fight against depression. That's why it's important to understand the signs and symptoms of depression. You may notice the problem in a depressed loved one before they do, and your influence and concern can motivate them to seek help.
Be concerned if your loved one:
Doesn't seem to care about anything anymore. Has lost interest in work, sex, hobbies, and other pleasurable activities. Has withdrawn from friends, family, and other social activities.
Expresses a bleak or negative outlook on life. Is uncharacteristically sad, irritable, short-tempered, critical, or moody; talks about feeling “helpless” or “hopeless.”
Frequently complains of aches and pains such as headaches, stomach problems, and back pain. Or complains of feeling tired and drained all the time.
Sleeps less than usual or oversleeps. Has become indecisive, forgetful, disorganized, and “out of it.”
Eats more or less than usual, and has recently gained or lost weight.
Drinks more or abuses drugs, including prescription sleeping pills and painkillers, as a way to self-medicate how they're feeling.
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How to talk to someone about depression
Sometimes it is hard to know what to say when speaking to someone about depression. You might fear that if you bring up your worries the person will get angry, feel insulted, or ignore your concerns. You may be unsure what questions to ask or how to be supportive.
If you don't know where to start, the following suggestions may help. But remember that being a compassionate listener is much more important than giving advice. You don't have to try to “fix” your friend or family member; you just have to be a good listener. Often, the simple act of talking face to face can be an enormous help to someone suffering from depression. Encourage the depressed person to talk about their feelings, and be willing to listen without judgment.
Don't expect a single conversation to be the end of it. Depressed people tend to withdraw from others and isolate themselves. You may need to express your concern and willingness to listen over and over again. Be gentle, yet persistent.
Starting the conversation
Finding a way to start a conversation about depression with your loved one is always the hardest part. You could try saying:
- “I have been feeling concerned about you lately.”
- “Recently, I have noticed some differences in you and wondered how you are doing.”
- “I wanted to check in with you because you have seemed pretty down lately.”
Once you're talking, you can ask questions such as:
- “When did you begin feeling like this?”
- “Did something happen that made you start feeling this way?”
- “How can I best support you right now?”
- “Have you thought about getting help?”
Remember, being supportive involves offering encouragement and hope. Very often, this is a matter of talking to the person in language that they will understand and can respond to while in a depressed state of mind.
|Tips for Talking about Depression|
|What you CAN say that helps:|
|What you should AVOID saying:|
The risk of suicide is real
What to do in a crisis situation
If you believe your loved one is at an immediate risk for suicide, do NOT leave them alone.
In the U.S., dial 911 or call the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988.
In other countries, call your country's emergency services number or visit IASP to find a suicide prevention helpline.
It may be hard to believe that the person you know and love would ever consider something as drastic as suicide, but a depressed person may not see any other way out. Depression clouds judgment and distorts thinking, causing a normally rational person to believe that death is the only way to end the pain they're feeling.
Since suicide is a very real danger when someone is depressed, it's important to know the warning signs:
- Talking about suicide, dying, or harming oneself; a preoccupation with death
- Expressing feelings of hopelessness or self-hate
- Acting in dangerous or self-destructive ways
- Getting affairs in order and saying goodbye
- Seeking out pills, weapons, or other lethal objects
- A sudden sense of calm after depression
If you think a friend or family member might be considering suicide, don't wait, talk to them about your concerns. Many people feel uncomfortable bringing up the topic but it is one of the best things you can do for someone who is thinking about suicide. Talking openly about suicidal thoughts and feelings can save a person's life, so speak up if you're concerned and seek professional help immediately!
Encouraging the person to get help
While you can't control someone else's recovery from depression, you can start by encouraging the depressed person to seek help. Getting a depressed person into treatment can be difficult. Depression saps energy and motivation, so even the act of making an appointment or finding a doctor can seem daunting to your loved one. Depression also involves negative ways of thinking. The depressed person may believe that the situation is hopeless and treatment pointless.
Because of these obstacles, getting your loved one to admit to the problem—and helping them see that it can be solved—is an essential step in depression recovery.
If your friend or family member resists getting help:
Suggest a general check-up with a physician. Your loved one may be less anxious about seeing a family doctor than a mental health professional. A regular doctor's visit is actually a great option, since the doctor can rule out medical causes of depression. If the doctor diagnoses depression, they can refer your loved one to a psychiatrist or psychologist. Sometimes, this “professional” opinion makes all the difference.
Offer to help the depressed person find a doctor or therapist and go with them on the first visit. Finding the right treatment provider can be difficult, and is often a trial-and-error process. For a depressed person already low on energy, it is a huge help to have assistance making calls and looking into the options.
Encourage your loved one to make a thorough list of symptoms and ailments to discuss with the doctor. You can even bring up things that you have noticed as an outside observer, such as, “You seem to feel much worse in the mornings,” or “You always get stomach pains before work.”
Supporting your loved one's treatment
One of the most important things you can do to help a friend or relative with depression is to give your unconditional love and support throughout the treatment process. This involves being compassionate and patient, which is not always easy when dealing with the negativity, hostility, and moodiness that go hand in hand with depression.
Provide whatever assistance the person needs (and is willing to accept). Help your loved one make and keep appointments, research treatment options, and stay on schedule with any treatment prescribed.
Have realistic expectations. It can be frustrating to watch a depressed friend or family member struggle, especially if progress is slow or stalled. Having patience is important. Even with optimal treatment, recovery from depression doesn't happen overnight.
Lead by example. Encourage the person to lead a healthier, mood-boosting lifestyle by doing it yourself: maintain a positive outlook, eat better, avoid alcohol and drugs, exercise, and lean on others for support.
Encourage activity. Invite your loved one to join you in uplifting activities, like going to a funny movie or having dinner at a favorite restaurant. Exercise is especially helpful, so try to get your depressed loved one moving. Going on walks together is one of the easiest options. Be gently and lovingly persistent—don't get discouraged or stop asking.
Pitch in when possible. Seemingly small tasks can be very hard for someone with depression to manage. Offer to help out with household responsibilities or chores, but only do what you can without getting burned out yourself!
Taking care of yourself
There's a natural impulse to want to fix the problems of people we care about, but you can't control someone else's depression. You can, however, control how well you take care of yourself. It's just as important for you to stay healthy as it is for the depressed person to get treatment, so make your own well-being a priority.
Remember the advice of airline flight attendants: put on your own oxygen mask before you assist anyone else. In other words, make sure your own health and happiness are solid before you try to help someone who is depressed. You won't do your friend or family member any good if you collapse under the pressure of trying to help. When your own needs are taken care of, you'll have the energy you need to lend a helping hand.
Speak up for yourself. You may be hesitant to speak out when the depressed person in your life upsets you or lets you down. However, honest communication will actually help the relationship in the long run. If you're suffering in silence and letting resentment build, your loved one will pick up on these negative emotions and feel even worse. Gently talk about how you're feeling before pent-up emotions make it too hard to communicate with sensitivity.
Set boundaries. Of course you want to help, but you can only do so much. Your own health will suffer if you let your life be controlled by your loved one's depression. You can't be a caretaker round the clock without paying a psychological price. To avoid burnout and resentment, set clear limits on what you are willing and able to do. You are not your loved one's therapist, so don't take on that responsibility.
Stay on track with your own life. While some changes in your daily routine may be unavoidable while caring for your friend or relative, do your best to keep appointments and plans with friends. If your depressed loved one is unable to go on an outing or trip you had planned, ask a friend to join you instead.
Seek support. You are NOT betraying your depressed relative or friend by turning to others for support. Joining a support group, talking to a counselor or clergyman, or confiding in a trusted friend will help you get through this tough time. You don't need to go into detail about your loved one's depression or betray confidences; instead focus on your emotions and what you are feeling. Make sure you can be totally honest with the person you turn to—choose someone who will listen without interruption and without judging you.
Authors: Melinda Smith, M.A., Lawrence Robinson, and Jeanne Segal, Ph.D.
How to help in an emotional crisis. (n.d.). https://www.apa.org. Retrieved July 23, 2021, from https://www.apa.org/topics/mental-health/help-emotional-crisis
Gariépy, G., Honkaniemi, H., & Quesnel-Vallée, A. (2016). Social support and protection from depression: Systematic review of current findings in Western countries. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 209(4), 284–293. https://doi.org/10.1192/bjp.bp.115.169094
Belmaker, R. H., & Agam, G. (2008). Major Depressive Disorder. New England Journal of Medicine, 358(1), 55–68. https://doi.org/10.1056/NEJMra073096
Lee, S. L., Pearce, E., Ajnakina, O., Johnson, S., Lewis, G., Mann, F., Pitman, A., Solmi, F., Sommerlad, A., Steptoe, A., Tymoszuk, U., & Lewis, G. (2021). The association between loneliness and depressive symptoms among adults aged 50 years and older: A 12-year population-based cohort study. The Lancet Psychiatry, 8(1), 48–57. https://doi.org/10.1016/S2215-0366(20)30383-7See Also30 Best Hindi movies on YouTube That You Can Watch FreeWhere Companies Go Wrong with Learning and Development12 of the Best Free Stock Video Websites for Great FootageTop 11 Most-Popular Romantic Movies Bollywood | Bewakoof Blog
Elmer, T., & Stadtfeld, C. (2020). Depressive symptoms are associated with social isolation in face-to-face interaction networks. Scientific Reports, 10(1), 1444. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-58297-9
Depressive Disorders. (2013). In Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. American Psychiatric Association. https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.books.9780890425787.x04_Depressive_Disorders
Get more help
Helping Someone Receive Treatment – What to do (and not to do) when trying to help a loved one get help for depression. (Families for Depression Awareness)
Helping a Friend or Family Member with Depression or Bipolar Disorder – Downloadable brochure with tips for helping your loved one while also taking care of yourself. (Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance)
What is the role of the family caregiver? – Tips on how families can work together to manage depression treatment. (Families for Depression Awareness)
How to Help Someone in Crisis – Advice on how to deal with a depression crisis, including situations where hospitalization is necessary. (Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance)
Depression hotlines, suicide prevention help
In the U.S.: Find DBSA Chapters/Support Groupsor call the NAMI Helplinefor support and referrals at 1-800-950-6264
UK: Find Depression support groups in-person and online or call the Mind Infoline at 0300 123 3393
Australia: Call the SANE HelpCentreat 1800 18 7263
Canada:CallMood Disorders Society of Canadaat 613-921-5565
India:Call the Vandrevala FoundationHelpline (India)at 1860 2662 345 or 1800 2333 330
Suicide prevention help
In the U.S.: Call 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifelineat 988
UK and Ireland: Call Samaritans UKat 116 123
Australia: Call Lifeline Australiaat 13 11 14
Canada: FindCrisis Centers Across Canadaby province.
Other countries: Visit IASPor Suicide.orgto find a helpline near you
Around the web
Last updated: October 13, 2022
What is the most effective treatment for depression in older adults? ›
Psychotherapy, counseling, or “talk therapy” that can help a person identify and change troubling emotions, thoughts, and behavior. It may be done with a psychologist, licensed clinical social worker (LCSW), psychiatrist, or other licensed mental health care professional.How do you help someone who doesn't want to be helped? ›
- Listen and validate. If your relationship is iffy, it doesn't hurt to just listen. ...
- Ask questions. ...
- Resist the urge to fix or give advice. ...
- Explore options together. ...
- Take care of yourself and find your own support.
Practice positive thinking by focusing your thoughts on your best qualities. You can also make lifestyle changes that can improve your self-esteem, such as eating a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, and spending time with friends who make you feel good about who you are.What are the consequences of depression in the elderly? ›
Untreated late-life depression can lead to decreased quality of life, decrease in ability to perform self-care activities, less social interactions, and increased health care needs.Does major depression get worse with age? ›
There is no evidence, to my knowledge, that causes of depression change with age. One exception, however, would be mood disorders specific to late-life, such as vascular depression or affective syndrome of Alzheimer's disorder.Which antidepressant should be avoided in the elderly? ›
Tricyclic antidepressants, especially amitriptyline and dothiepin,16 are known to pose a high risk of death in overdosage. These drugs should therefore be avoided in older people whose medication is not supervised and who are at risk of taking an overdose.How do you help a mentally ill person who doesn't want it? ›
- Listen. Simply giving someone space to talk, and listening to how they're feeling, can be really helpful in itself. ...
- Offer reassurance. Seeking help can feel lonely, and sometimes scary. ...
- Stay calm. ...
- Be patient. ...
- Try not to make assumptions. ...
- Keep social contact.
"I'm really sorry you're going through this. I'm here for you if you need me." Remind them that their feelings are valid and that you want to support them.How do you talk to someone who doesn't want to talk to you? ›
- 1) Be honest. Be honest, and be kind. ...
- 2) Be respectful. ...
- 3) Do not pressure them. ...
- 4) Give them time to think about It. ...
- 5) Be proactive. ...
- 6) Respect their decision. ...
- 7) Accept their decision but be optimistic. ...
- 8) Take a break.
The Significance of Depression Depression, a type of mood disorder, is the most prevalent mental health problem among older adults. It is associated with distress and suffering (4).
What stage of dementia is depression? ›
Depression is often diagnosed when a person is in the early stages of dementia. However it can develop at any stage.What is the leading cause of death in elderly people? ›
This article outlines the top causes of death for adults over the age of 65, starting with the number one cause: heart disease. Using disease prevention strategies, such as eating a healthy diet, quitting smoking, and maintaining a healthy weight, can help you avoid or reduce the impact of some these conditions.What is the fastest way to treat depression? ›
- Exercise. It temporarily boosts feel-good chemicals called endorphins. ...
- Eat healthy. ...
- Get enough sleep. ...
- Challenge negative thoughts. ...
- Check with your doctor before using supplements. ...
- Do something new. ...
- Avoid alcohol and other drugs.
A: The duration of a depressive episode varies and is influenced by its severity, as well as treatment and individual factors. However, the average length of a depressive episode is thought to be six to eight months.What are the 5 types of coping strategies? ›
There are many different conceptualizations of coping strategies, but the five general types of coping strategies are problem-focused coping, emotion-focused coping, social support, religious coping, and meaning making.Is depression curable or just treatable? ›
There's no cure for depression, but there are lots of effective treatments. People can recover from depression and live long and healthy lives.How does depression affect the brain? ›
Depression causes the hippocampus to raise its cortisol levels, impeding the development of neurons in your brain. The shrinkage of brain circuits is closely connected to the reduction of the affected part's function. While other cerebral areas shrink due to high levels of cortisol, the amygdala enlarges.Why is depression so prevalent now? ›
There are many reasons that could explain why depression is so common now. Two main factors contributing to the rise in the number of people with depression are social media and the home environment.What is the most common inappropriately prescribed drug to the elderly? ›
In one study, 19 percent of 2508 community-dwelling older adults were using one or more medications inappropriately; NSAIDs and benzodiazepines were the drug classes with the most potential problems .What is the safest antidepressant? ›
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are the most commonly prescribed antidepressants. They can ease symptoms of moderate to severe depression, are relatively safe and typically cause fewer side effects than other types of antidepressants do.
Which antidepressants increase risk of dementia? ›
According to the University of Regina research, popular SSRI (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) antidepressant medications, such as Prozac, Paxil, Lexapro, Zoloft, etc., are associated with a twofold increase in the odds of developing some form of cognitive impairment, such as dementia, including Alzheimer's.What to do with a mentally ill family member who refuses treatment? ›
- Listen and Validate Their Feelings. Especially if your relationship with this person is iffy, it doesn't hurt to just listen. ...
- Ask Questions. ...
- Resist the Urge to Fix or Give Advice. ...
- Explore Options Together. ...
- Find Support for Yourself.
- The Power Of Your Presence. Many people think they have to say something in order to be helpful. ...
- The Power Of Silence. ...
- Validation. ...
- Reframing. ...
- Use Yourself But Not The Moment. ...
- Avoid Giving Advice. ...
- Offer Concrete Help. ...
- Follow Up.
- “You're never far from my thoughts.”
- “Know how often I think of you? ...
- “You're on my mind and in my heart.”
- “Keeping you close in my thoughts.”
- “Lifting you up in prayer and hoping you have a better day today.”
- “I can't wait to catch up with you soon.”
Platitudes, clichés, and vague statements don't offer much for someone to hold on to in terms of hope. So avoid making statements like: "This too shall pass." "Let it go."
- Consistency is key.
- Practice active listening.
- Ask questions...but not too many.
- Demonstrate sharing and self-disclosure.
- Lean on nonverbals.
- Let them know you value your relationship and ask what they need to feel safe.
- Acknowledge your own desires.
Try being patient about his lack of communication and give him space when he does not want to communicate. You can also try being supportive and understanding. Ask to schedule a better time to talk. Finding a time both of you are comfortable could be the answer to how to communicate with a man that won't communicate.What mental disorder gets worse with age? ›
Personality disorders that are susceptible to worsening with age include paranoid, schizoid, schizotypal, obsessive compulsive, borderline, histrionic, narcissistic, avoidant, and dependent, said Dr. Rosowsky, a geropsychologist in Needham, Mass.How much sleep should a 68 year old woman get? ›
Older adults need about the same amount of sleep as all adults—7 to 9 hours each night. But, older people tend to go to sleep earlier and get up earlier than they did when they were younger. There are many reasons why older people may not get enough sleep at night.Can depression cause death elderly? ›
What's more, symptoms of depression have been linked to heart disease and stroke in middle-aged and older adults. Researchers suggest that the depression-heart disease link could play a role in the increased risk of death among older adults who have symptoms of depression.
How do you help someone in despair? ›
- Listen to them. ...
- Help them find support. ...
- Offer to help with tasks. ...
- Stay in touch. ...
- Do positive activities together. ...
- Bring over your fur baby.
Unlike people with Alzheimer's, people with depression are usually not disoriented. People with depression have difficulty concentrating, whereas those affected by Alzheimer's have problems with short-term memory. Writing, speaking, and motor skills aren't usually impaired in depression.What are the last stages of dementia before death? ›
During this time they will usually:
- become more frail.
- have more frequent falls or infections.
- have problems eating, drinking and swallowing.
- be more likely to need urgent medical care.
- become less mobile.
- sleep more.
- talk less often.
Who is Defined as Elderly? Typically, the elderly has been defined as the chronological age of 65 or older. People from 65 to 74 years old are usually considered early elderly, while those over 75 years old are referred to as late elderly.What is the life expectancy of an 80 year old? ›
The average life expectancy in the United States is 9.1 years for 80-year-old white women and 7.0 years for 80-year-old white men.What is the life expectancy of a 75 year old female? ›
The study, supported by the American Insurance Group, found that, on average, a 75-year-old American woman with no chronic conditions will live 17.3 additional years (that's to more than 92 years old).Which drug is the first choice for treating depression in older adults? ›
Many doctors start by prescribing a type of drug called a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), such as citalopram (Celexa), escitalopram (Lexapro), fluoxetine (Prozac), fluvoxamine (Luvox), paroxetine (Paxil) or sertraline (Zoloft).What kind of therapy would a professional recommend for elderly depression and why? ›
Group life-review/reminiscence therapy is recommended for the treatment of depression in older adults.What are the treatments for elder depression? ›
What Treatments Are Available for Depression in Older Adults? Treatments for depression include medicine, psychotherapy or counseling, or electroconvulsive therapy or other newer forms of brain stimulation (such as repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation, or rTMS).What is the most common cause of depression in the elderly? ›
The death of friends, family members, and pets, or the loss of a spouse or partner are common causes of depression in older adults.
What is the safest antidepressant? ›
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are the most commonly prescribed antidepressants. They can ease symptoms of moderate to severe depression, are relatively safe and typically cause fewer side effects than other types of antidepressants do.What is the most tolerated antidepressant? ›
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).
Health care providers often start by prescribing an SSRI . These antidepressants generally cause fewer bothersome side effects and are less likely to cause problems at higher therapeutic doses than other types of antidepressants.
- St. John's wort. ...
- SAMe. This dietary supplement is a synthetic form of a chemical that occurs naturally in the body. ...
- Omega-3 fatty acids. ...
- Saffron. ...
- 5-HTP. ...
The Significance of Depression Depression, a type of mood disorder, is the most prevalent mental health problem among older adults. It is associated with distress and suffering (4).What are the 5 beers criteria? ›
The AGS Beers Criteria® include the same five main categories as in 2015: (1) potentially inappropriate medications in older adults; (2) potentially inappropriate medications to avoid in older adults with certain conditions; (3) medications to be used with considerable caution in older adults; (4) medication ...Which of the following is a symptom of depression? ›
Feelings of sadness, tearfulness, emptiness or hopelessness. Angry outbursts, irritability or frustration, even over small matters. Loss of interest or pleasure in most or all normal activities, such as sex, hobbies or sports. Sleep disturbances, including insomnia or sleeping too much.What is the best antidepressant for 80 year old woman? ›
When it comes to antidepressants for elderly patients, most experts recommend SSRIs or selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), which help increase certain brain chemicals such as serotonin. These drugs tend to have fewer serious side effects and drug interactions than older antidepressants on the market.What is depression in older adults called? ›
Geriatric depression is a mental and emotional disorder affecting older adults. Feelings of sadness and occasional “blue” moods are normal. However, lasting depression is not a typical part of aging. Older adults are more likely to suffer from subsyndromal depression.What are the 5 depression symptoms in older adults? ›
Along with cognitive symptoms, experiencing a depressed mood, loss of pleasure in activities, significant weight loss or gain, decrease or increase in appetite, sleeping too much or too little, fatigue, feelings of worthlessness, or excessive or inappropriate guilt calls for a trip to the doctor for a depression ...How much sleep do 70 year olds need? ›
Older adults need about the same amount of sleep as all adults—7 to 9 hours each night. But, older people tend to go to sleep earlier and get up earlier than they did when they were younger. There are many reasons why older people may not get enough sleep at night.
At what age is a person considered elderly? ›
Ageing, an inevitable process, is commonly measured by chronological age and, as a convention, a person aged 65 years or more is often referred to as 'elderly'.What stage of dementia is depression? ›
Depression is often diagnosed when a person is in the early stages of dementia. However it can develop at any stage.