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How Do You Make a Depressed Person Feel Better?

Knowing how to make a depressed person feel better isn’t easy, but it can feel like we have a responsibility to help the ones we love. What’s the secret?

Knowing how to make a depressed person feel better is notoriously difficult. People with depression find it hard to ask for help, usually because they don’t know what they need or because they’re worried about being a burden on their loved ones. They may push away the very people they love and need the most as a result. Many friends, family members and partners of people with depression feel helpless and pushed away, and this is no one’s fault. If you don’t know how to make a depressed person feel better, here are some ways you can help your loved one beat the shame and stigma and get the help they need.

How to Make a Depressed Person Feel Better: There’s No Magic Wand

Helping a depressed person to feel better would be easy if we could wave a magic wand and make their mental illness disappear. Partners and family members of those with depression often feel helpless because people who are depressed can find it difficult to vocalize their feelings and needs, and they often isolate themselves from others. Those with depression may feel that they are not worthy of help or they may not know what they need or how to ask for it. So why can’t they just tell you what they need?

According to MD J. Raymond DePaulo, director of the Affective Disorders Clinic and the John Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, people with depression experience “significantly diminished” relationship skills, making it hard for them to communicate. This often happens as a result of shame, embarrassment or the anticipation of judgment from others.

Don’t blame yourself if you don’t know what to do when someone you love is depressed. If it were that easy to ease depression, there wouldn’t be so many people suffering (16.2 million adults in the U.S., and 300 million people worldwide, to be precise).

Depression is a serious illness that usually only gets better with treatment, so it is not up to you to provide a cure. There are, however, some ways you can help.

When Someone You Love Is Depressed: 5 Ways You Can Help

Here are five simple ways you can help when someone you love is depressed:

Ask questions, but don’t interrogate them

It can be incredibly frustrating when someone you love is depressed and you don't know the reason. You don't want to interrogate your loved one, however, especially as they may not even know what triggered the depression or how to help themselves feel better ("Causes of Depression: What Causes Depression?").

Don't just say nothing

If you don't know what to say to your loved one with depression – say that. Tell your loved one that you're so sorry they are unwell, and that you simply don't know what to say to make them feel better, even though you care and want to help.

Offer practical help

One of the first things we say to someone we love when they’re distressed is, “Let me know if I can help.” Although this is well-meaning, it is often quite hard for the depressed person to respond. However hard things get, it can be difficult for someone with depression to admit they’re struggling, let alone ask for help. Instead of making a vague offer of help, be specific. Say: “Would it help if I came over and cleaned your apartment,” or “Can I bring you some meals?” Better yet, don’t ask, just do it. Send them a care package, write them a letter showing your support or make yourself useful around the home.

Listen without judgment

Ultimately, your only responsibility to someone you love is to listen without judgment and often without giving advice. Whether you're a romantic partner, a close friend or a family member, your only job is to provide support and let your loved one feel heard. You can encourage your loved one to talk about their feelings by making eye contact, listen to what they're saying and don't interrupt them. This is one of the most powerful ways to show someone you care.

Remind them that it will pass

They might not believe you, but it still bears repeating: "This won't last." "You will feel better." They may be simple statements, but they might ignite the slightest spark of hope in someone who is depressed. If they need a little more convincing that their depression isn't permanent, do your research. Share stories and statistics about people who have recovered from depression, like this one: 80% of people who seek treatment for depression start to feel better within six weeks.

The symptoms of depression may never go away entirely, but there are plenty of ways to make a depressed person feel better, even in the short-term. Over time, these small things add up to make a world of difference, so don't give up.

article references

APA Reference
Smith, E. (2019, April 26). How Do You Make a Depressed Person Feel Better?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, June 19 from https://www.healthyplace.com/depression/relationships/how-do-you-make-a-depressed-person-feel-better

Last Updated: May 17, 2019

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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