Depression affects 1 in 5 people. When a friend is down for a long period of time or is behaving in an unusual way, it can be hard to know what is the right thing to do is. Check out this page for info on what to do.

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Good stuff to say

Young people share the good and bad stuff to say to a friend that you're worried about.

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  • Author: Youth Beyond Blue
  • Upload Date: 2015-01-20

Created by https://www.youthbeyondblue.com

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Kindness of giving

What's the best thing you've ever spent five bucks on?

There are a couple of things that spring to mind when I ask myself that.
Once, I beat that diabolically rigged arcade game 'Stackers' and won an iPod for $5.
Another time I found a bunch of rare Animorph books at a library book sale (my favourite book series from when I was younger).
But one memory trumps all of the others, hands down: when I was twelve, I walked past a lady in the train station who was singing 'My Heart Will Go On'. I didn't have any loose coins, and the only money I had was a $5 note which I had carefully hoarded to spend on ice cream at school. After a moment of agonising deliberation, I decided that I wanted to acknowledge the beauty of her singing more than I wanted the ice cream, so I put the money in her hat. In return, she gave me a smile which I will never forget for as long as I live.

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  • Author: Xin
  • Upload Date: 2012-10-29

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Provided by Reach Out

We have partnered with Reach Out to bring you the best factsheet information we can on this topic. Reach Out offers information, support and resources to help young people improve their understanding of mental health issues, develop resilience, and increase their coping skills and help-seeking behaviour.

Helping a friend with depression

helping a friend with depressionDepression affects 1 in 5 people. When a friend is down for a long period of time or is behaving in an unusual way, it can be hard to know what the right thing to do is.
If your friend has mentioned suicide, it's important you tell someone so they can remain safe. Check out Reach Out's If your friend threatens to take their own life fact sheet for more info.

Suggestions for helping

Like other illnesses, everyone's experience of depression is different. Also, it's important to remember that helping someone who is not ready to recognise they need help may be difficult, and the decision and responsibility for them to get help is ultimately theirs.

There are some things you can do that may help you to aid your friend who may be feeling depressed:

Offer your support

It can be scary when you realise you need help. Let your friend know you're worried about them, and that you are there to listen without judging them. If they do talk to you about how they are feeling, it might help if you acknowledge that they are feeling down and that things might seem hard, while at the same time try and remain positive and encouraging.

If you are having difficulty speaking about it with your friend, you might start with sentences such as 'I've noticed you've seemed a bit down', 'Lately, I've noticed you've been not interested in hanging out with your mates or enjoying things like you used to'.

Choosing when to talk

Timing can be an important part of talking to someone about sensitive stuff. If possible, try to choose a time when you are both relaxed.
Avoid talking with them during an argument or if they are upset - you may end up getting a bad reaction and distancing them.

Don't ask them to cheer up or forget about it

When people are sad, our first reaction may be to tell them to cheer up or forget about it because everything will be fine. If someone is depressed this may be impossible. Asking someone to cheer up may appear as if you are not taking their feelings seriously and have the opposite effect.

Get informed

Finding out more about depression might help you better understand the reasons for the reactions you might receive and what your friend might be going through. Check out our Depression - types, causes, and symptoms section.

Encourage them to get professional support

helping a friend with depressionIf your friend is depressed, it is important that they seek help. Your local doctor or GP is a good first step. Clinical psychologists and psychiatrists are specialists trained in assisting people with mental illness and could also help. You can find these people in your local area through the beyondblue Directory of Medical and Allied Health Practitioners.

You might have a headspace centre nearby where your friend can get help in an environment designed specifically for young people - check out the link for more info. If you feel able to, you might offer to go with your friend when they speak to someone about how they are feeling. It might also be helpful to forward them the factsheets and stories listed on the left side of this page.

If your friend doesn't feel up to speaking with a professional face to face yet, you could encourage them to call Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 (free from a land line) or Lifeline on 13 11 14 (cost of local call from a land line) - both are anonymous and available 24/7. Kids Helpline also offers web and email counselling. Check out Reach Out's the Confidentiality fact sheet and their  Who can help you section for more information about what these people do and how they can help.

Give it time

Helping a friend with depression can take time. It might take time for your friend to accept help, either from you or someone else. It might also take some time to find a treatment that works best for them.

Take care of yourself

When you are worried about a friend you might feel stressed or overwhelmed and forget to look after yourself. It is important that you take care of how you are feeling. Speak to someone you trust, such as a family member, friend or counsellor. Kids Helpline and Lifeline are services that are available 24/7 and which may also be helpful. Check out the links for more info.

Having time away from your friend can be important and allow you to relax. Make sure you spend some time doing what you enjoy. You may want to play sport, hang out with other friends, listen to music, or go for a walk. Check out the Remember to take care of yourself as well fact sheet for more info.


It's also important to remember that even though you can offer support, you are not responsible for the actions or behaviours of your friend. If they are not willing to help themselves it is not your fault.

Living with someone with depression

helping a friend with depression can take timeLiving with someone who experiences depression is not easy at times. When they are struggling it can often be hard to know what to do and say. It is not uncommon to have feelings of anger, guilt or fear and feel overwhelmed from time to time. As a family member or friend of someone who is experiencing depression it is important that you look after yourself.

Learn about depression

Having an idea about how someone is affected by depression may help you to understand why they behave in the way that they do. This may help you separate the illness from the person and realise that the person's mood or behaviour may not be directed at you personally.

Put yourself first occasionally

This can be hard and you may find that you feel guilty when you do something for yourself. This is important however. Making time to do things that you enjoy is an important part of looking after yourself and your family member.

Take time out

Having time away from your family member can also be important and allow you to relax. Try to spend some time doing what you enjoy. You may want to play a sport, hang out with friends, listen to music or go for a walk.

Talk about what they find helpful

Make conversations about depression easy and open. Try asking about what helps them when they are feeling depressed. By talking openly, you are letting the person know about your love and support for them. You may like to talk about what you have read and ask how they feel about it.

Support activities

If you are living or caring for someone who is experiencing depression you may sometimes feel you are different or alone. Friends may not understand what it is like for you. Talking to people who are in a similar situation may be helpful. The Association for the Relatives and Friends of the Mentally Ill (ARAFMI) or Carers Australia may be a good place to find some support.

Talk to someone

It may be helpful to talk to someone you trust about how you are feeling. Friends and family are people who might be helpful to speak with. If you feel like you are having trouble doing day to day things it may be helpful to see someone like a psychologist or counsellor.

To find a doctor or mental health professional see the beyondblue Directory of Medical and Allied Health Practitioners in Mental Health. Or, you can also find a psychologist through the Australian Psychological Society Find a Psychologist Service. You may also want to ask friends or your local doctor if they can recommend anyone.


Thanks to Beyond Blue for editing this factsheet.

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3 Responses to “Helping a friend who is depressed”

  1. Taylor says:

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  2. lynz says:

    This is a fantastic blog from a young girl who has personally learnt how to manage her depression. In this blog she discusses ways she found friends and family could help her manage he depression positively.

    A top read


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