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How to help someone with depression

8-minute read

Key facts

  • If someone you know has depression, it can be hard to know how to help them.
  • The best thing you can do is show your support by checking in with them, listening and encouraging them to get help.
  • While you are supporting someone with depression, it's very important to take care of yourself too.

How can I recognise the signs of depression?

If someone you know has depression, they may show some of the following signs over at least 2 weeks:

What can I do to help someone with depression?

If someone you know has depression, it can be difficult to know how to best support them.

What you find simple may seem overwhelming to them. Below are some tips on how to support someone with depression.

First of all, it's important to understand that depression isn't something that you can simply 'snap out of'. Like any illness, depression needs treatment, and time for recovery.

The best thing you can do for someone with depression is to be there for them.


If you know someone with depression, it's important to:

  • check in with them
  • offer to talk about how they are feeling
  • listen to them and don't rush to give advice or judge them
  • take their thoughts and feelings seriously

Offering support

People with depression may find it hard to do ordinary tasks, such as:

  • cooking dinner
  • having a shower
  • washing clothes
  • attending appointments

They may also be unable to do things that they enjoy.

The person may feel like a burden to their friends and family. They may be worried about facing stigma about their illness. This can prevent them from asking for help. You can support them by:

  • offering to help them with practical tasks, such as taking them to appointments
  • offering company and distraction to take their mind off things, such as going for a walk

It's always a good idea to ask them first before helping them. This way, the person you are supporting has a choice and is not being told what to do. Remind them that:

  • you want to help them
  • they deserve support
  • they are not a burden

Sometimes they may reject your help, but even just offering your support and care can make a difference.

Seeking help together

A person with depression may already be receiving help from a doctor or another professional, such as a:

If they haven't, you can encourage them to do so. The best place to start is for them to talk to their doctor. They can:

  • provide them with advice and support
  • refer them to other mental health professionals if needed

A mental health professional can:

They can also make an appointment with a psychologist or counsellor without a referral. But, seeing their doctor first means they may be able to get a Mental Health Treatment Plan. This can help cover some of the costs through Medicare.

Treatment for depression can include medicines and therapy.

Someone with depression may feel unmotivated or nervous about getting help. You can offer to find a health professional and help them make an appointment.

If you feel comfortable, you can offer to:

  • take them to their appointment
  • go in with them

The person you care for may not want to get help. If so, it might help to offer them information about what support is available.

If that doesn't work, wait. Continue to support them, and ask again later.

Supporting their recovery

People with depression may feel unmotivated to follow their treatment or recovery plan. You can help support their recovery.

Encourage them to take their medicine. It can take weeks to months for some antidepressants to be fully effective.

Some people want to stop taking medication due to unpleasant side effects, or when they feel better. They should talk to their doctor or nurse first.

Encourage them to:

How can I talk to someone with depression?

It can be difficult to speak to someone with a mental illness.

Before speaking to someone who has depression, ask yourself:

  • Am I ready — are you in a good headspace, and do you have the time?
  • Am I prepared — are you ready for a difficult conversation where you don't have the answers?
  • Have I picked a good moment — have you chosen somewhere comfortable to talk, and an appropriate time?

If you feel ready to talk, you can:

  • ask how they are doing
  • let them know your concerns and what you've noticed about their behaviour

If the person does not want to talk, you can:

  • let them know that they can speak to you if they ever want to
  • ask them if they would prefer to speak to someone else

If they do want to talk, listen openly. Don't offer advice or judgement — instead, use open questions (questions that can't be answered with a 'yes' or 'no'), such as:

  • How can I support you?
  • How do you feel about that?
  • I feel as though you have been doing better, what do you think about that?
  • What would you like to do together to take your mind off things?

Validate their feelings with responses such as 'I can hear that this has been very difficult for you'. If you don't understand something they have told you, you can ask, 'Have I understood that correctly?'.

How can I address talk of suicide?

If you are worried someone is feeling suicidal, it is okay to ask them.

Asking them if they are safe won't put ideas in their heads. It will make them feel heard, understood and cared for.

Take any talk about suicide seriously. A number of support services can help someone who is feeling suicidal.

If someone is at immediate risk of suicide, call triple zero (000) now.

How can I look after myself?

The symptoms of depression also affect family and friends, so it's important to look after yourself by:

  • setting boundaries around what you are willing to do
  • sleeping well
  • eating healthily and exercising
  • seeking support of your own

Resources and support

There are resources available with more information on caring for someone with depression:

If you are concerned that someone is suicidal, there are crisis lines available. You can call:

You can also call the healthdirect helpline on 1800 022 222 (known as NURSE-ON-CALL in Victoria). A registered nurse is available to speak with 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: September 2023

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