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How Can I Help a Friend Who Is Depressed?

Everyone feels sad or moody from time to time. But if you’ve noticed that a friend has been feeling sad for a couple weeks or longer, or isn’t enjoying or taking part in things they used to, it could be a sign of depression.

Depression can make it hard for someone to see a better future. Friends or family are often the ones who notice how serious things are.

What Are Signs & Symptoms of Depression?

Depression affects how people think and feel about themselves, and how they act. The signs can be subtle and easy to miss. Someone who is depressed might:

  • act irritable or easily annoyed
  • be self-critical, focus on failures, or feel guilty
  • lose interest in friends, activities, or school, or stop enjoying things they used to enjoy
  • engage in risky behaviors, like drug and alcohol use, or self-harm
  • sleep too little or too much or have a change in eating habits
  • have low energy or trouble concentrating
  • complain of headaches, bellyaches, or other pain
  • say things like “I wish I were dead” or “It would be easier if I weren’t here anymore”

What Can I Do to Help if My Friend Is Depressed?

Encourage your friend to talk with a trusted adult. This could be someone like a parent, teacher, school counselor, mentor, or coach. You can even offer to go along. If your friend isn’t able to speak with an adult, let an adult know that you’re concerned. Ask this person to reach out to your friend or help your friend meet with a therapist. Just having someone listen and care can help your friend feel more hopeful and less alone.

If there isn’t an adult to turn to, have your friend reach out to a helpline. They're staffed by people your friend can talk with 24 hours a day. They can listen and guide your friend on how to get help.

In the United States, they can contact:

What if It Seems Like an Emergency?

If your friend mentions suicide, self-harm, or hurting others, get help right away:

  • Talk with a trusted adult.
  • Call or text 988 to reach the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, or contact them through their website.
  • Text HOME to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.

You may want to try to help your friend on your own, but it's always safest to get help. If your friend made you promise not to tell anyone what's going on, the best way to help is by breaking that promise. It may feel like you’re betraying your friend, but if your friend has thoughts of suicide, telling someone could save their life.

How Is Depression Treated?

Depression is treated by talking with a trained therapist, psychologist, or other mental health provider. How long this treatment lasts depends on the person and the symptoms. Sometimes, doctors also prescribe medicine.

How Can I Also Take Care of Myself?

It's natural to feel worried, sad, or upset about your friend. But it can be draining if you get too caught up in worrying about another person’s problems. Even if your friend isn’t ready to talk with someone, you can. It can help you to confide in an adult you trust. Explain what’s going on and how you feel.

Treatment for depression takes time, but supporting your friend while caring for yourself can help you both.

Reviewed by: Shana L. Boyle, PhD, Nicole A. Kahhan, PhD
Date Reviewed: May 20, 2023

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