Young Adults’ Experiences of Depression in the U.S.

Messages to family and friends: how to support a person with depression

People want to alleviate the pain of a son, daughter or a friend who is suffering with depression. But it is not easy! Too often their well-meaning efforts can make things worse. In this section, the young adults we interviewed share insights about helpful—and not helpful—ways to interact with a person with depression. 

Helpful ways to support a person with depression

Almost everyone we talked to said having a supportive friend or family member is “invaluable.” Some acknowledge that knowing what kind for support works in any given situation “depends on the person.” But everyone said that genuine support includes “compassion,” “respect,” and being there “through my worst.”

Many people said they value support more than understanding. As Shayne put it, “Being supportive is not even the willingness to understand, it’s the willingness to never understand and to still be there.”
Other people we interviewed said they appreciate “someone who understands,” and “does not judge.”
Some people said simple acts “like holding my hand” by a loving intimate partner provide encouragement.
Unhelpful ways to support a person with depression

Several people said that they understand that their friends and family mean well, but too often their attempts to help were not helpful. 

A lot of those interviewed said it was not helpful when people say things such as, “I totally get where you are coming from.” 
A number of people find advice unhelpful. As Whitney put it, “When they start offering too much advice I shut down. … Nobody wants to be told what to do”.
 Showing anger and frustration, even though understandable, is not helpful. As Elizabeth put it, “When someone tries so hard to help you and it’s not successful, sometimes that produces anger.” She says for her, this situation just “produces more worry”.

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