Suggestions for how to tell someone is depressed…

It’s difficult to see a friend or loved one struggle with depression, but before you jump in with advice and assistance, take a look at our readers’ suggestions on how best to act in this delicate situation.
Traci Powell

Traci Powell

Traci Powell, MSN, PMHNP-BC, CTTS, from The Rebuilt Woman, LLC.

Talk with Them Privately and Use I Statements

While it can be very hard to watch someone you care about struggle with depression unless the person is in danger of self-harm, it is best to approach your concerns in a way that shows you support them, yet gives them the power to make their own decisions. Choose a private location where you can have an uninterrupted discussion. Speak from the heart using “I” statements, such as “I am noticing that you don’t seem yourself,” or “I’ve noticed you spend all of your time alone lately and you seem sad.” These statements express your concern but are not accusatory.

Sometimes, when someone is deeply depressed, they can’t see a solution to how they are feeling. It may be helpful to talk about others you know who found relief from their depression through therapy. If the person becomes open to seeing someone, you could offer to help them find a professional. While it may hurt you to see someone you care about suffer, the most important thing you can do is provide unconditional love and support, and let them know you are there for them.

4 Tips for Discussing Depression

● Use “I” statements as opposed to “you” statements.
When confronting someone using a “you” statement, you may get met with defensiveness or hostility. You’re more likely to be heard when you address a situation from the standpoint of your thoughts and feelings by using “I” statements.

What it sounds like to use “I” statements to address someone who is depressed:
“I’ve been concerned that you haven’t seemed to be your normal self.”
“I care about you, and I noticed that you may be struggling.”
“I want to be here for you and help you find someone else to talk to as well.”

● Use self-disclosure.
You don’t want to make things about yourself, but it can be helpful to share if you’ve benefited from therapy in the past. This kind of self-disclosure can help the other person feel connected and understood rather than shamed or judged.

What this can sound like:
“When I was going through a hard time, it helped me to talk to a therapist. Is that something you might be willing to explore?”

● Prompt, don’t pressure.
Pressuring someone to seek help can backfire. Unless it’s something they’re ready for, they may feel resentful or resistant to the whole process.

Think of guiding them to the idea of seeking help by planting seeds. A gentle prompt will plant the idea in their mind. They may need time to sit with the thought of seeking help to let the idea grow before they’re ready to act on it.

Instead of saying: “I think you need help,” you can ask, “Have you thought about talking to a professional who may be able to help?”

● Offer to assist them in finding help.
Many mental health practitioners are busier than ever, which can make it challenging to find help. Finding help while struggling with depression is even more challenging.

Offering to help vet providers and schedule appointments can be a huge relief and go a long way in getting someone help. The first step can be the hardest, but that’s something you may be able to assist with.

This can sound like:
“I know the process of getting help is hard, but here’s how I can assist.”
“I’d like to help you get something scheduled so that you’re not on your own.”

Rebecca Phillips

Rebecca Phillips

Rebecca Phillips, MS, LPC is a licensed professional counselor and operator of Mend Modern Therapy.
Leslie Radka

Leslie Radka

Leslie Radka, Founder & Hiring Manager of GreatPeopleSearch.

Be Accessible, Supportive, and Respectful

The stigma around depression may hinder communication due to fear of offending the depressed person. Telling such a person to seek professional help may offend them. Here are a few tips on what to say to a person you suspect to be depressed to motivate them to seek help:

  • Begin by showing care and concern for their wellbeing
  • Point out things that may show the person they need help
  • Ask the person how you can help them
  • Assure the person that you are in support of them, including materially, such as raising the consultation fee
  • Offer to take the person to the doctor, assuring them there is nothing wrong in seeking assistance
  • Remind them that depression is treatable and assure them they shall get well
  • Be accessible if the person needs to speak up
  • Show that you understand the situation and are willing to be part of it
  • Show the person that their life matters and give them a sense of strength
  • Be sensitive with how you handle them, respecting their privacy
  • Keep the conversation empathetic but not sympathetic, which shows reassurance
  • Use language free of blame or negative connotations with their situation
  • Finally, do not impose, but let the person make the decision to seek assistance

Initiate Simple Conversation with Personal Anecdotes

Even in the 21st-century, poor mental health is considered taboo by ignorants. Many are still afraid to admit openly that they are suffering from mental health issues. When such is the social condition, asking your friend or acquaintance if they are depressed might backfire.

Instead of being straightforward, try initiating a simple conversation with personal anecdotes (or stories of people you know) about how sharing troubles with someone trustworthy can reduce stress. Don’t be obvious and pinpoint your indications indirectly to them. Instead, give good examples of successful people who were once devastated by mental health issues.

You might also start the conversation by parsing renowned psychologists for their contribution to society. Whatever you say just make sure you don’t sound intrusive. People telling you what to do is the last thing someone suffering from depression needs.

Olga Voronkova

Olga Voronkova

Olga Voronkova, Marketing Director at KeyUA.
Maria A. McDowell

Maria A. McDowell

Maria A. McDowell, Founder of EasySearchPeople.

Share Awareness, Empathy, and Willingness to Help

Show your knowledge about depression
Most times, depressed people don’t know that they are ill. You can get them to seek help by subtly sharing your understanding of depression and allowing them to connect some of the symptoms to what they are passing through. Also, let them know that whatever they are going through can be treated.

Show emotional support
When someone you know is depressed, the best way to encourage them to get help is by showing emotional support. Let them know that you can relate to how they feel and reaffirm your dedication to being with them all through the process of getting the needed help.

Recommend a therapist
To someone that is depressed, the task of finding a therapist can be overwhelming. To encourage them to get help, offer to help book an appointment with a therapist, and if convenient, drive them to their first few sessions.

Broach the Subject Honestly, Respectfully

If you suspect that someone is depressed, the best way to approach them is to be respectful and honest. You can say something like, “I noticed that you haven’t been yourself lately, and I was wondering if you might want to talk about it. There are a lot of resources available to help people who are struggling.”

If the person seems receptive, you can offer to connect them with a counselor or therapist. However, if they react negatively or seem offended, it’s probably best not to push them further. Instead, offer your support and encourage them to seek help.

Matt Woodley

Matt Woodley

Matt Woodley from Mover Focus.
Evelyn Ott

Evelyn Ott

Evelyn Ott, Tattoo Artist and Content Writer at Soul Canvas Ink.

Go Through the Process with Them

For one, this will help avoid a situation where they might deny something is up because you will have given evidence of why you think they are depressed. Do not do it in a manner of attack, but gently and lovingly. You can even put your hand on their shoulder to make them feel more comfortable opening up. This shows them the love and care you have for them, and that you are not simply asking them about their changed mood to gloat or shame them.

After this, they are more likely to open up, and this will be the first step to them seeking help. Plus, don’t just tell them to seek help. Show them where, research how much it will cost, offer to pay if you can afford it, drive them to the appointment, and check on them daily. They will see your investment in their getting well, and this will make them feel more loved. Just don’t tell them to do it, do it with them.

Offer Acknowledgement and Support

1. If a friend or a close one is going through depression, please acknowledge their existence and their problem. Their problem may be nothing to you but to them, it has become such a great deal that they have become mentally disturbed.

2. Do not say things like “you need help” and “go see a therapist” straight away. Always open your conversation on a lighter note and talk to them about how opening up to a therapist is helpful almost all the time.

3. Remember there is a stigma that surrounds the word “therapist” or “psychiatrist.” Therefore do not use such words directly, rather just convey your opinions and let them conclude on their own.

Shannon Miller

Shannon Miller, Clinical Director at ChoicePoint Health.

This is a crowdsourced article. Contributors' statements do not necessarily reflect the opinion of this website, other people, businesses, or other contributors.