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How to Deal with Someone with Depression: It Can Be Frustrating

Wondering how to deal with someone with depression? While trying to help can be frustrating, here are things you can do to make it easier for both of you.

Knowing how to deal with someone with depression is a valuable skill. However, being aware of the right things to say and do when a loved one is mentally ill isn’t always easy. Our connections with friends and loved ones can help draw them out of the darkness and make them feel less alone, but sometimes this responsibility can feel like too much. At times, trying to help a depressed person can be frustrating. They may be unprepared to admit they’re unwell or reluctant to seek help, or else they might withdraw from us entirely. Often, we’re forced to accept that we cannot know how to deal with someone with depression if they won’t help themselves, but is there more we could be doing?

How to Deal with Someone with Depression: It’s Easier Than You Think

Knowing how to deal with someone with depression is an increasingly important life skill. Depression is the leading cause of disability and ill health worldwide, yet so many of us are afraid to talk about it for fear of making others uncomfortable. This very fact can be what causes people with depression to withdraw from their peers and shy away from help. So how do you deal with someone with depression when they seem unwilling to connect?

According to comedian and storyteller, Bill Bernat, dealing with a depressed person is simpler than most of us think – and it’s all about making meaningful connections. Bernat argues that depression doesn’t diminish a person’s desire to connect with others, just their ability to. Therefore, allowing your loved one to be depressed and still maintain a deep connection with you is perhaps the most powerful support you can offer.

How to Deal with a Depressed Person: The Basics

Not sure how to deal with someone with depression? Here are some basic tips and facts you should know.

  • Don’t treat them differently: Many people with depression feel like they have to pretend to be okay in case people treat them differently. Your loved one is still the same person; they're just ill. Take your lead from them and be open, honest and friendly. If they want to talk about their depression, they’ll let you know.
  • Words are not always important: Even if you don’t know what to say, you can still connect with someone who has depression. Just listen. Allow them to talk and offer a hug if you think they need it. Send them a card or drop off their favorite ice-cream. Making a gesture to bridge the gap that depression creates is important, but it doesn’t matter how you do it. Knowing how to deal with someone with depression means acknowledging that words aren’t always needed.
  • Not all depression is the same: Just because something works for one person, that doesn't mean it will work for another. Accept that you may not understand your loved one's depression and you don't have the answers. It's not your job to give advice – you just need to be there.  
  • Clearly state what you can and can’t do: It’s okay to make an offer of help with clear boundaries around it. There’s no point telling your friend they can call you “night or day” if you don’t intend to answer your phone. This is not how to deal with a depressed person. Instead, be open about the kind of support you can provide.
  • Invite them to contribute to your life: Rather than offering to “help” your loved one, ask them to come with you to the movies or invite them to go shopping. Make sure they are the ones in control and that they don’t feel pitied or weak.   
  • Find out what works for them: When someone tells you they’re depressed, don’t say “what can I do to help?” This is too vague, and most people won’t take you up on your offer. Be more specific instead. Say, “Is it okay if I text you every day to check in?” or “I’d like to come and see you once a week, would you like that?”
  • People can be depressed and okay at the same time: Just because someone has depression, that doesn’t mean they can’t talk about anything else. While some people need immediate and life-saving help, the majority of people living with depression want to connect with others in meaningful ways without having to pretend they're "fine."

Knowing how to deal with someone with depression is key to maintaining close and meaningful relationships. It’s estimated that 15% of the adult population will experience depression at some point in their lifetime, making it all the more important to know how to deal with a depressed person compassionately.

See Also:

How to Help a Boyfriend, Girlfriend with Depression

How to Help Your Spouse, Partner with Depression

article references

APA Reference
Smith, E. (2019, March 8). How to Deal with Someone with Depression: It Can Be Frustrating, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, June 24 from https://www.healthyplace.com/depression/relationships/how-to-deal-with-someone-with-depression-it-can-be-frustrating

Last Updated: May 17, 2019

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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