Talking to your Loved Ones about Depression

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Effects of Depression

Talking to your loved ones about depression can be a scary experience. You’re not alone. Over 300 million people in the world experience depression. Chances are someone you know and love has experienced the symptoms and effects of depression at one time or another. Life is unpredictable and sometimes unforgiving during certain seasons of peoples’ lives. When faced with a situation of overwhelm or grief, depression can kick in for even some of our most outwardly stable friends and family. The American Psychiatric Association defines Depression as “a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act. Fortunately, it is also treatable. Depression causes feelings of sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed. It can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems and can decrease a person’s ability to function at work and at home.”

Signs of depression can include: 

  • Loss of energy or increased fatigue
  • Feeling worthless or guilty
  • Feeling sad or having a depressed mood
  • Changes in appetite
  • Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much


Talking to Your Loved Ones about Depression

Seeking the right help early is essential for managing symptoms and getting back on the path to feeling well. Sometimes this can mean a person confiding in their closest friends and family about their troubles. Creating a safe space for your loved ones to be honest about their mental health is essential to their overall well being. This can mean the difference between a person getting the help they need, or not. Here are some ways you can create a safe space for talking to loved ones suffering from depression.

Be Open Minded and Non-Judgemental

Be open minded and non-judgemental when a loved one opens up about how they experience the world. You can be validating of the person’s experience without having to fully agree with what they say. Consider following this example: A person feels like everyone in their lives hates them. You might respond that it would be hard feeling like everyone hates you. You are then validating the person’s experience without invalidating their feelings, even when you know their statement is not true.

Ask open ended questions

Open ended questions are questions that force the other person to answer the question without using simply “yes” or “no” as their primary response. Some questions may be; What has that been like for you? What have you tried already? How can I help? Asking questions in this way gets the other person to open up. Be sure as your loved one is opening up, that you continue to be validating of their experience.

Active listening

It is important in any form of communication that you actively listen to what the other person has to say. Ways of showing the other person you’re listening include paraphrasing and reflecting what the person has said back to them before asking an open ended question. Example:I am horrible at school. No one likes me and I have to eat lunch in the library to avoid being bullied in the lunchroom. You would say, “Wow, it sounds quite stressful having to eat lunch in the library to avoid the bullies at school. How long has this been bothering you?”

Encourage your loved one to get the appropriate professional support

Now that the person has confided this information to you about how they are struggling, it’s time to act on this information. Help your loved one by finding local counselling centres, support groups, online groups, a local doctor, and/or peer support. Treatment for depression can be different things to different people and it’s important that a recovery is driven by the support best suited to the situation. Ask your loved one what they’ve already tried. Suggest different options you know are available. Get them in contact with a medical professional who knows what’s available. People get better when they address the reasons behind the imbalance in their mental well being. Unfortunately, sometimes,  this is the hardest thing to do for someone suffering from depression.

Taking Action

When a loved one approaches you to talk about their feelings of hopelessness or depression, it is crucial to create a safe space for them to open up. Sometimes it is hard to understand others in despair because we cannot relate completely. Simply being there for your loved one as an active listener and encourager can make all the difference in the next steps they take to treat their depression.

Resources (US):

If you or your loved one is considering suicide, you are not alone. Confidential help is available for free. Please call the US National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at: 1-800-273-8255 or go to: for additional resources.

Resources (NZ):

If you or your loved one is considering suicide, you are not alone. Confidential help is available for free. Please call the NZ National Suicide Prevention Line (Tautoko) at: 0508 828 865 or free text to: 4357 (HELP)

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