Helping Someone with Depression: 6 Steps

Depression is not merely a state of mind, it is a disease. In fact, the World Health Organisation (WHO) states that it is one of the most common conditions worldwide.

Anyone can be affected by depressive thoughts. Those who have gone through it will know how torturous it can be. Thankfully, mental health is being taken more seriously these days, as it should.

Here are 6 steps you can take to helping someone with depression:

1. Listen, empathise and accept

Listen, empathise and accept - Helping Someone with Depression

One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.

– Bryant H. McGill

A lot of times, we feel much better just by talking out our problems to someone. Unfortunately, depression brings about the tendency to want to hide away from people.

Encourage them to share their worries and stresses with you. This is already beneficial, as the first step to recovery is being aware of what exactly is plaguing them.

You may also help them with prompts if they have trouble verbalising their thoughts, such as:

  • How are you feeling right now?
  • What are the main thoughts/worries that run through your mind all the time?
  • Has anything happened recently that may have affected you?
  • Have you been sleeping well?

Pay close attention to them and consider what they say without judgement as far as possible. Avoid dismissing their emotions and exercise empathy by putting yourself in their shoes. This alone is already very helpful and is your way of respecting them and their feelings.

2. Bring them out for activities

Bring them out for activities

Physical activity is one of the best remedies when helping someone with depression. However, getting someone who is depressed to step outside is a great challenge on its own.

For a start, aim to bring them out for regular, low intensity activities, such as short walks, slow jogs, and cycling. A study by Lynette L. Craft and Frank M. Perna suggested that the focus should be on repetition until the activity becomes more habitual. Launching into intense activities right from the start may serve to backfire instead.

Pro Tip: Try to bring them outside instead of doing activities indoors. Sunlight can help with depression in 3 ways:

  1. It helps the brain release more serotonin which improves mood.
  2. It improves sleep, as it affects a person’s circadian rhythm – the cycle that regulates waking and sleeping.
  3. Sunlight stimulates the body to produce vitamin D, which may help with regulating depression.

3. Discourage alcohol and drug use

Discourage alcohol and drug use - Helping Someone with Depression

Alcohol and drugs tend to be an escape or coping mechanism for many with depression. However, the withdrawals that come with their long-term usage and the depressant effects they have bring much more harm than good.

It may be difficult to help someone curb the use of alcohol and drugs, especially if they show an addiction to or a reliance on them. In that case, you may want to suggest to them to seek external help with quitting this bad habit.

In the long run, they can be very detrimental to not just their mental health, but their physical health as well.

4. Help them establish a routine

Help them establish a routine

With depression, it is common for a person to feel constantly fatigued and be unmotivated to do anything. One great way you can help them is by helping them to establish a routine.

Having a routine is very beneficial as it sets them into autopilot to carry out good practices. It also fills their day with more activities, reducing the chances of them getting caught up with depressive thoughts during times of boredom.

Establishing a good daily routine can involve these habits:

  • Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.
  • Drink at least 2 litres of water.
  • Try to eat healthier, homecooked meals if possible.
  • Practice mindfulness or meditation.

5. Activities that stimulate the mind

Activities that stimulate the mind

People suffering from depression may tend to feel stuck or lost in their purpose and direction. They may also worry that they are not getting anything accomplished or have no interest in doing anything.

You may suggest doing some activities that help to stimulate their mind. Better yet, you can do it together with them. We recommend you explore creative outlets, as this offers them a chance to express themselves and materialise their feelings. You can try:

  • Drawing, sketching or painting.
  • Creative writing or journaling.
  • Completing puzzles.
  • Playing chess or card games.
  • Playing video games.
  • Cooking or baking new recipes.

These are a few fun activities that can help stimulate thinking and creativity. The sense of accomplishment that comes with seeing the final product of their work can also greatly improve their mood and give them more confidence.

6. Seek professional help

Seek professional help - Helping Someone with Depression

Even if your intentions may be the best when helping someone with depression, sometimes they cannot replace a professional’s treatment.

See a psychiatrist especially if you feel it is necessary for them to take some medication. If not, you can simply encourage them to see a psychologist or counsellor regularly.

The difference between psychiatrists and psychologists is that psychiatrists are certified doctors who can prescribe medication and give medical leave. Psychologists and counsellors more so focus on teaching techniques to manage depressive thoughts and chronic stress.

The key is consistency – one or two sessions is often not enough. Depression, and any mental health disorder, is tricky as it tends to recur. Seeking external help over a period may speed up their recovery.

All the best!

All the best! - Helping Someone with Depression

Dealing with depression, first or second hand, is never easy. We applaud you for taking the first step to care for your loved one or friend by researching about helping someone with depression.

Ultimately, it comes down to consistently showing them patience and compassion, understanding without judgement. You will likely need to constantly reassure them, listen to and spend time with them. Over time, this can take a toll on you too.

Don’t forget to care for yourself while you are caring for someone else! Wishing you and your loved one or friend all the very best.


This blog is by Medihelp247 – a free platform that allows healthcare providers and seekers to connect directly.

Written by Andrea Lim

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