How to support a friend who may be experiencing depression

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Are you worried a friend may be experiencing depression? If you’re concerned about your friend’s mental health, there are things you can do and/or say to support them while taking care of your own well-being. Here are some ideas and things to consider.

Is my friend experiencing depression?

Depression is a common mental disorder. It can cause people to experience low mood for an extended period of time — it’s more than just the daily ups and downs everyone has. Signs your friend may be experiencing depression include:

It can be difficult to tell exactly what someone may be going through. While you may be concerned about your friend, it’s important to remember the signs of depression may vary from person to person. Keep in mind that depression also has different types, and can only be diagnosed by a psychologist, psychiatrist or doctor.

What can I do to support my friend?

It’s OK to open up a conversation about depression — and more generally, mental health and well-being — with your friend. By starting the discussion, you may be easing any pressure from your friend if they’re afraid to bring it up. Here are some ways you can approach your friend and offer support:

1. Just be there

Reach out and check in with your friend about how they’re feeling. Just being there can show them how much you care. Remind them they’re not on their own. Let them know there is hope and help is available if they need it.

You can say:

  • “You seem really down lately. Do you want to talk about it?”
  • “You’ve been crying a lot recently, and I’m worried about you. How are you feeling?”
  • “I noticed you quit playing hockey. Is everything OK?”
  • “I care about you. What’s been going on lately?”

2. Listen carefully

Listen to what your friend is willing to share with you. You can try repeating in your own words what they tell you to confirm your understanding. Depending on what they tell you, saying things like this may help them feel heard and understood in the moment:

  • “That must be really hard.”
  • “I’m so sorry you’re hurting.”
  • “I’m here for you.”

3. Research depression

You can look up depression to see if there are helpful facts to know and share with your friend. For example, experiencing depression doesn’t mean you’re lazy or weak. It’s as real and as serious as a physical condition. Taking care of your mental and emotional health is just as important as taking care of your body. Depression is also treatable with things like medication and/or counselling/therapy. You can check out the following resources for credible information:

4. Share resources

You can let your friend know there are ways to get information and support with whatever they’re going through, if and/or when they’re ready. Here are a few ideas:

5. Connect to support

If your friend would like to reach out for help, you can give them Kids Help Phone’s contact information as a starting point. You can offer to contact us with them, or let them connect on their own when they’re ready. Our counsellors and crisis responders are available 24/7 and can help your friend sort through their feelings. Your friend could also tell a teacher, psychologist, doctor or other safe adult if they’d like and are able to.

6. Be aware of the signs of suicide

If your friend is talking about dying or experiencing thoughts of suicide, self-injury or death, it’s essential to talk to the person and get help from a safe adult right away. You can also read these tips for intervening during a crisis for more information.

7. Take care of yourself

Your mental health and well-being are important, too. If you’re really worried about your friend, or just need someone to talk to, you can also contact Kids Help Phone or someone else you trust for support. No matter what your friend is going through, you’re being a good friend by checking in on their well-being. But remember, you’re not responsible for anyone else’s actions, or for making sure your friend gets support. Only they can decide if/when they’re ready to take that step.

You can find some of Kids Help Phone’s trustworthy info, self-guided activities and more that are related to depression and sadness below.

While they aren’t treatments, these tips and tools may be helpful to you and/or your friend as you work through your feelings.

Helping a friend who may be experiencing depression can be tough for both of you, so focus on being kind to them and yourself. You can be proud of yourself for supporting your friend with whatever they may be going through.