Aiding Friends With Depression

How to recognize a friend or loved one’s need for help

People contemplating suicide often signal their distress in their intent to harm themselves. Be a compassionate bystander. Verbalize your concern and willingness to support them. Encourage them to seek professional help. You can offer to call a suicide hotline with them. Help them develop a Proactive Plan that includes ways for them to reach out for help should they feel in imminent risk of harming themselves.

Every one of us is entitled to feel our feelings in our own way. We should also feel empowered to share these feelings without judgement, comparison, pity or guilt. Make it clear that it is safe to tell you when they are feeling low.

Be mindful of:

Sleep Patterns

Changes to typical sleep patterns, such as need for constant sleep, feeling tired and fatigued despite excessive sleep, or insomnia

Changes in Appetite

Changes in appetite, overeating or undereating, any major dietary deviations from one’s typical dietary routine

Withdrawal from social outlets

Withdrawal from social outlets, feelings of loneliness, social alienation, feeling burdensome to others

Mood Changes

Dramatic mood changes: easily agitated, irritable, angry, low stress and frustration tolerance, persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness expressed by no sense of purpose in life or reasons for living

Distorted Self-Perception

Distorted self-perception, from body image to self-esteem to task ability to social confidence. Be mindful of an increased perception of pain/increased sensitivity.   In depressed patients who present with musculoskeletal issues, there is often an amplification of pain perception resulting in a response that is disproportionate to the level of actual tissue damage. (Take a look at our ten mental hygiene hacks.)


Impulsivity, recklessness, thoughts or actions of self-injury

Substance Abuse

Loss of leisure interest, change in healthy coping skills, decreased problem-solving abilities, increased use of substances

How you can help and what to say

  • “I’ve noticed you’ve been a little distant lately. Is there something you’d like to share? Would you be willing to talk about it with me?”
  • “I see you are hurting, and I’m here for you. I know there’s nothing I can say to fix your hurt, and I might not understand it, but I’m so grateful that you are allowing me to listen.”
  • “What you’re sharing with me sounds really difficult to bear.”

Words that can hurt without meaning to

  • “If you just try, you’ll feel better,” “You’re too focused on your (__insert mental health ailment__), you should focus on the future.”
  • “What’s the matter with you?” “Why haven’t you been going out/calling/responding to texts/meeting up with friends?”
  • “Look on the bright side,” “It could be worse,” and “Well, at least you aren’t (___insert medical issue, financial deficit, generally unhelpful comparison of ‘bad’ situations to be in that we aren’t in currently____).”

Crisis Resources



For More Information on Depression

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