Understanding that you are not responsible for offering a cure for someone’s depression is the first key to being of any value to a depressed person. Most often the things you can do to help such a person are remarkably simple and easy and can make a marked difference to how he or she copes.

  • Make it clear that you know that depression is an illness. Nowadays most people understand the medical reasons for depression, but it can still be a shock to someone who gets diagnosed with depression. If they know that those around them understands that it isn’t something that one simply snaps out of, it will lessen the burden.
  • Learn about their illness and the treatments they are receiving. Encourage the person to do the same – knowledge about the illness and the different treatments is helpful in making decisions when changes to treatment are necessary.
  • Spend time with them. Let this be in a way they want; a depressed person might not feel like talking or going out with lots of people, but would appreciate a movie or shopping buddy. Be sensitive to what the depressed person feels comfortable with.
  • Give practical support. People with depression may struggle to keep up with everyday things such as paying the bills, running the usual errands or cooking meals. Help by reminding them to do it or offer to do it for them if it seems too much for them to cope with.
  • Encourage them to take good care of themselves. People in a depressed state can let good habits such as eating healthily, finding time to relax or getting a good night’s sleep slide as it can be hard to summon up the emotional energy to do it. Give them a hand in getting a healthy meal or snack together, or encourage them to join you for a walk or a shopping trip.
  • Structure and routine have been identified as two major tools in helping people deal with depression. Routine provides shape to a day and can be reassuring and give life meaning. Encourage them to find this structure in their lives and to stick to routines.

Baker, Barbara. 2003. When someone you love has depression. Sheldon Press
Carr, Caroline. 2009. Living with depression – how to cope when your partner is depressed. White Ladder Press