What to do when a friend or relative is depressed

Depression. It’s a horrible word that sounds almost as sinister as the actual thing. Unfortunately, I’ve experienced depression in the past and I know many people who are afflicted by it. As we get towards the winter months, the days are shorter and vitamin D levels reduced which often results in depression. So, what should you do if someone you care about is depressed?

Talk to them

Find out how they are on a regular basis. Let them know that you’re there for them, even if it’s over the phone or internet, not physically. Try to get an idea of how serious it is from their behaviour and what they’re saying. Let them open up to you, or gently suggest that they open up to someone they feel comfortable talking to. Often, they’re worried about hurting the people closest to them if they talk about how they’re really feeling. That brings me on to my next point…


There are phone lines for various charities where you can talk about how you’re feeling and get support. One of the most well-known charities in the UK is Samaritans. You can talk to them on the phone, email them, or physically visit them at one of their buildings. There are also services becoming available via social media.

Encourage them

Remind them that they aren’t alone and that things won’t always be like this. I know people who have felt depressed and had suicidal thoughts. They felt that things were never going to get better and that there’s only one way out of it. However, life has improved for these people and they’re so glad they didn’t take further action because they wouldn’t be in the happy situation they find themselves in today. Try to help them focus on the good things in their lives that usually make them happy, such as family, or future events that they may be looking forward to.

Encourage them to get help from a doctor, such as cognitive behavioural therapy or counselling and perhaps medication. Depression does not make you a weak person and asking for help is a very strong thing to do.

Do what you can

If possible, spend as much time with them as you can doing things they enjoy (or usually enjoy). It may well help to lift their mood a little, even if for a while. At the very least, it shows them that someone is there for them. Good options would be something that engages their brain, spending time in nature or doing something creative.

You could also put together a box of things to try and cheer them up. However, be realistic. A nice gesture isn’t going to just make them better. If you can, one of the best things to do is get outside and go for a walk in the woods or by the sea. Nature can work wonders for the soul.

People you can contact

  • Samaritans (open every day of the year, 24/7)
    • 116 123 (UK) or 116 123 (ROI)
    • jo@samaritans.org
  • CALM (for men aged 15-25, open every day of the year, 5pm – midnight)
  •  SANE (open every day of the year, 6pm – 11pm)
    • 0845 767 8000
    • sanemail@sane.org.uk
  • PAPYRUS (for young people, open every day of the year, open from 10am – 10pm on weekdays, 2pm – 10pm on weekends and 2pm – 5pm on bank holidays)
    • Phone 0800 068 41 41
    • Text 07786 209697
    • Email pat@papyrus-uk.org

REMEMBER, if you are feeling as though you may seriously take your own life or have serious concerns for someone’s wellbeing, call 999.


11 thoughts on “What to do when a friend or relative is depressed”

  1. My husband suffers from depression. Whilst he is much better than he was, he still has bad days. Sadly he is not a talker and no amount of coaxing will encourage him. It’s very hard. #mg

  2. Hi,

    This is really helpful. My sister was diagnosed with severe post-natal depression and anxiety. I didn’t know what to say or do. Pen x

  3. I’m sorry to hear that 🙁 It can be difficult for some people to talk, particularly men, I feel. I think all you can do is try to be supportive, but not all the things I’ve suggested will work for everyone unfortunately.

  4. I’m sorry to hear that. Fortunately, I escaped PND, but I did have PND. I’m glad you found it helpful, it’s a horrible situation to be in whether you’re the one suffering or the one watching someone suffering x

  5. I feel so grateful that you shared this post with #mg, it is so crucial that we talk and write openly about depression and mental illness. It touches so many lives and so many of us are so at a loss of what to say or do, we feel so helpless watching a loved one suffer, so this post holds an important message. I have come close to loosing people I love to depression, and have lost someone to suicide so I know how real it is. Sadly this Sunday just gone I was having lunch with a girlfriend when we saw a mans body floating in the river, he had taken his life. I don’t know him or his circumstances but it was just so sad. #mg

  6. These are all great ideas! And while they may not work for everyone (my sister, who has bi-polar, isn’t the best at talking things out) it’s still a good thing to do to call or send a message just to check in with them. I suffer from depression and in the Winter it is at its worst but I also have the skills now from years of hard work working on my PTSD to know what to do when I start to feel depressed. Most people don’t have those skills and don’t even know that there is an opportunity to learn skills related to dealing with their depression. We are conditioned to deal with our mental health issues alone and because of that so many people out there still don’t know that they really aren’t alone. It can be a very tricky thing but I think just checking in with loved ones periodically can be a great help. #mg

  7. Nature does work wonders and was one of the things that got me out of what i would like to call delayed postnatal depression. However my aunt is currently suffering from depression and I have been looking for ways to be there for her.

  8. That’s so sad 🙁 It is a difficult and awful situation to be in and I’m sorry to hear of your loss. I’ve recently found myself in a supportive role with a couple of people and felt as though it’d be a good idea to share my ways of helping or trying to help. I think that when it comes to mental health issues, a lot of people just don’t know how to deal with them, unfortunately (both sufferers and those around them).

  9. Yes, it is a really tricky thing. You don’t want to annoy people, but you want them to know that someone does love and care about them. I think it’s so important that people know that you can learn skills to help, but as you say, most people unfortunately don’t know. Like you, I know what to do to help myself if I start noticing the signs of depression creeping in, as I’ve suffered with it (thankfully not constantly) since the age of 10. It’s important that people feel able to reach out for help, too.

  10. I’m sorry to hear about your aunt, I hope she recovers soon. I’m glad to hear that nature helped you too! I find that I have to spend time in nature on a fairly regular basis or else I find my mental health beginning to slip.

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