How to Help a Friend Who May Be Depressed

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For some people, the holidays evoke feelings of sadness, particularly if they’ve lost a loved one recently or around the holidays. Even if they haven’t, there may be other circumstances going on that are making this Christmas season difficult.

If you know of someone who is having a hard time and you think they may be depressed, here are some tips:

1. Understand Depression Better

Depression is more common than we might think. Roughly 19 million Americans per year experience clinical depression. Depression isn’t just feeling sad or “blah.” It’s more than the normal ups and downs that we all experience. Simply stated, you might think of depression as experiencing a “down” mood, along with other symptoms, for more than two weeks.

It can affect a person in various ways – physically, mentally, emotionally, academically, relationally, and even spiritually.

Although all the causes are still unknown, biological and emotional factors may increase the likelihood that a person will develop depression. Depression is not a sign of weakness; rather, it is a serious disorder. For many, it is effectively treated with a combination of medicine and professional counseling.

2. Know the Symptoms

  • Persistent sad, anxious or "empty" feelings
  • Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness and/or helplessness
  • Irritability, restlessness
  • Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable
  • Fatigue and decreased energy
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering details and making decisions
  • Insomnia, early–morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
  • Overeating, or appetite loss
  • Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts
  • Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment

Not everyone who is depressed experiences all the same symptoms. The symptoms, as well as the intensity and duration of them, will vary.

If a person experiences multiple symptoms for a period of two weeks or more, this indicates possible depression.

If you or someone you know might be experiencing depression, visit to take a depression assessment. Once you finish this assessment, you can print a report for yourself and you can also print a report to take to your doctor.

3. Find Someone Who Can Help

Clinical depression needs professional treatment from a doctor and/or a mental health professional. If you see the above symptoms in a friend’s life, encourage them to get help. If they mention death or suicide and are unwilling to seek help on their own, find a trusted adult and share your friend’s struggle. You friend may be initially upset with you for sharing with someone else, but wouldn’t you rather speak up than not speak up and wish you had? This is the mark of a true friend.

4. What Else You Can Do

  • Encourage them to talk to you about what they’re going through. Be a good listener and non-critical of what you hear.
  • Offer them encouragement and hope. Remind them that their depression will get better with time and treatment.
  • Be patient and understanding.

  • Pray for them.

For more information about depression, visit the National Institute for Mental Health website.

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