If someone you know has depression, you may find it difficult to figure out how to support them - what you find simple, may seem overwhelming to them. Below are some tips on how to support someone with depression.
How to recognise the signs of depression
If someone you know has depression, they may show some of the following signs:
- a depressed mood
- a loss of interest in activities they usually enjoy
- changes in appetite or weight
- sleeping too much or too little
- having negative thoughts, where everything seems overwhelming
Things you can do to help someone with depression
First of all, it’s important to understand they have an illness and can’t just ‘snap out of it'. If they haven’t already seen a doctor or other health professional about depression, encourage them to do so. It can help to have a diagnosis and to talk about treatment. You might need to help them make an appointment.
However, the person may not want to seek help. If so, it might help to explain why you are concerned and to offer them information, such as a book or fact sheets. If that doesn’t work, then wait and try again later.
People with mental illness may face stigma. Try to listen to them without judgement - they need your support more than your advice.
Talking to someone with depression
- Be ready - are you in a good headspace, and do you have the time?
- Be prepared - are you ready for a difficult conversation where you don’t have the answers?
- Pick your moment - have you chosen somewhere comfortable to talk, and an appropriate time?
Seeking help together
Treatment can include medication and therapy, and a mental health care plan helps with the cost. Someone with depression often feels unmotivated; below are some ways you might support them:
- Offer to find a health professional and to go to the appointment with them, if they want you to.
- Encourage them to do regular exercise, eat healthy food and drink less alcohol, to help speed up their recovery. Do this with them, if you can.
- Support them in taking their medication. Many people will start to feel better in two to four weeks, but it can take eight weeks for antidepressants to reach full effectiveness. Some people want to stop taking medication when they feel better, but they should talk to their doctor or nurse first.
Worried about suicide?
Looking after yourself
The symptoms of depression also affect family and friends, so it’s important to look after yourself and to set boundaries around what you are willing to do.
Visit Carer Gateway to get tips for carers on how to keep physically and mentally healthy.
Where to get help and more information
- Mental Health Carers NSW (formerly the Association of Relatives and Friends of the Mentally Ill provides support groups and a helpline.
- Carer Gateway has further information for carers of someone with mental illness.
- Carers NSW provides carer support kits, telephone assistance and support groups.
- beyondblue has information about supporting someone with depression or anxiety.
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Last reviewed: March 2018