What should you do when living with someone who has depression? Find out how you can help them while still taking care of yourself.

Depression is more than just feeling down; it’s a mental health condition. Depression is a disease that causes persistent feelings of sadness and negativity; it’s is not just a mood or thought process that those with depression can change or control. Many times clinical depression is due to a chemical imbalance in the brain and is not possible to control without professional help and medications. Living with a person who has depression can be difficult and often involves stresses that do not exist in most relationships.

Some people wonder how to cope with living with a depressed person. While this may initially seem challenging, there are several ways to help someone with depression:

1. Listen

An important part of therapy is getting the person with depression to discuss their difficulties and struggles. Talking about these feelings and experiences provides a way to cope with depression. While someone with depression may benefit from talking to a mental health professional, they can also benefit from discussing their feelings with a friend or family member. Listening does not need to involve having any great insights or providing solutions. Simply being present and hearing their feelings and struggles can help your friend or family member more than you may realize.

2. Be Supportive

Those who wonder how to support someone with depression often underestimate how much they already help. Supporting someone with depression involves being available to talk to, spend time with and listen to your loved one

3. Take Care of Yourself

While living with and helping someone with depression, self-care is crucial. You will be in no state to help someone with depression if you are not feeling well or are run down yourself. No one is able to constantly be there for someone else and still have time to take for themselves. Taking time to spend by yourself or with others is an important part of being able to help the person with depression.

4. Recognize Improvements

Depression is often long-term and improvements tend to be slow. By recognizing improvements — even small ones — and pointing them out, you will both encourage the other person and remind yourself realize that their efforts are paying off.

5. Don’t Make Excuses for Them

Empathy and support are vital when living with someone with depression, but they will also need encouragement to push themselves and try to help themselves improve. Depression is difficult, but it can sometimes be used as an excuse to avoid doing things that will help them to feel better.

The best person to tell what someone with depression can’t do versus what they won’t do is often the person living with them. You will be able to tell better than anyone if they genuinely can’t get out of bed all day or if they do not want to. Don’t push them too hard, but do encourage them to push themselves beyond what they want to do.

6. Educate Yourself on Depression

You will be better able to help someone with depression if you learn more about it. There are several resources, both online and through doctors and hospitals, that can provide you with more information about what depression is, what causes it and how to help someone who has it. By understanding what depression is and how it makes you feel, you will be better able to empathize with someone who has it.

7. Encourage Them to Seek Help

While there are several different treatments for those with depression that can be very helpful, depression treatment can never begin if a person doesn’t seek help. If you have a friend or family member living with depression, encourage them to seek treatment and do what you can to help them take the first step. Without professional intervention, they will be less likely to recover from their depression.

8. Recognize Deterioration

The most dangerous aspect of depression is the risk that it will lead to suicide. You should pay attention to when the symptoms of depression start to worsen. Recognizing the signs of an impending suicide attempt will also be important, and you will be the person who is most likely to notice these signs if you live with them.

Someone with depression who is about to attempt suicide may become suddenly more upbeat and cheerful; this is because they have made the decision to commit suicide and view this as a solution to their depressed state. Someone who is about to commit suicide may also begin giving things away, make a will, organize their affairs and talk about dying. They may also start engaging in more risky behavior or using large amounts of alcohol or drugs. If you think there may be a risk of suicide, ask them straight up if they are considering suicide. If you think someone is suicidal, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 as soon as possible.

9. Consider Support Groups

There are support groups available for family members affected by depression. You can find depression family support groups online or in person. In-person support groups are typically more effective, but depending on your location, an online option may be more easily accessible.

Family support groups will provide you with a supportive group of people who can help you with your unique situation and provide useful information that you can use in helping the person with depression. Support groups will help you in both your self-care and in caring for the person you live with.

Depression can often lead to substance or alcohol misuse. If your loved one is struggling with an addiction, The Recovery Village can provide them with professional treatment to overcome their addiction. Reach out to one of our team members today to learn how you can get help for your friend or family member.

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Editor – Megan Hull
Megan Hull is a content specialist who edits, writes and ideates content to help people find recovery. Read more
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Medically Reviewed By – Benjamin Caleb Williams, RN
Benjamin Caleb Williams is a board-certified Emergency Nurse with several years of clinical experience, including supervisory roles within the ICU and ER settings. Read more

Smith, Kathleen. “Living with a Depressed Person.” Psychom, Nov. 25, 2018. Accessed June 20, 2019.

Halverson, Jerry L. “Depression.” Medscape, March 28, 2019. Accessed June 20, 2019.

National Institute of Mental Health. “Depression.” February 2018. Accessed June 20, 2019.

National Alliance on Mental Illness. “NAMI Family Support Group.” 2019. Accessed June 20, 2019.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.