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How to Support A Depressed Friend

 Everyone’s experience with mental illness is different, but when I am in a season of depression, I feel a physical heaviness. My mind feels thick and clouded.  Everything feels difficult.   Deep unwelcome apathy where excitement, joy, love used to live.  

I lay in bed for days.  My bed is the only place I feel safe.  When I’m able to get up, I’m going through the motions.  Your friend may not feel exactly as I did, but chances are they can relate to some of these feelings

 I have learned it is helpful to include a small group of friends and family in the journey.  And if your friend has let you in,  that is HUGE. Your support is so meaningful.

I remember friends would ask “Is there anything I can do to help?”  Sometimes, it was easy to answer honestly.  Other times, I couldn’t assess my needs or even form words that made much sense.  Even if I felt compelled to share or ask for help, guilt tends to prey on a depressed mind–trying to convince you are selfish or  “too much” for asking for help.

So how can you support your friend who is depressed?  Do not feel pressure to do every one of these suggestions! Pick one or two and do them faithfully.

What to do when someone depressed pushes you away

Understand the WHY:

Shame and/or guilt

There is a social stigma attached to depression.  And even if it is irrational, most sufferers believe they are somehow at fault.  So often I felt embarrassed that I couldn’t pick myself up out of this place.  I couldn’t will myself to get out of bed.  I didn’t want anyone to see me like this.

No energy to engage

Depression takes a lot out of someone emotionally and physically.  Some people have a hard time even getting out of bed and showering, let alone engaging with others.

What you can do, despite being pushed away:

Don’t take it personally

Though it may sound cliché… it is not about you.  They could value your friendship greatly yet be physically and mentally unable to care.  Depression has a way of stealing emotions and replacing them with indifference.  They could even WANT you in their life, but cannot will themselves out the despair and apathy that has engulfed them.

Be persistent, but not overbearing

Don’t give up on them.  I loved daily check in texts from friends, with no expectations!  I didn’t feel pressure to be engaging and I could respond as I was able.

Only you know your level of closeness with your friend.  Go with your gut! 

How to show up for someone who is depressed 

Take care of practical needs

1. Food

      • Send or make them food.  Providing for their physical needs, while also not requiring or expecting anything will make them feel loved, seen, and supported.  

      • Don’t ask if you can do this.  If they are like me, I would never want to be a burden, and if asked would always say no. But if someone dropped some healthy snacks off at my house, I would gladly accept and feel loved. 

Pick something you know they like.  If you aren’t confident about what they like to eat, say something like:

     “I’m ordering you dinner tonight.  Does Qdoba, Subway, or Pizza sound best?” 

Making decisions (no matter how small or insignificant) feels overwhelming during depression.  The less to decide, the better!

      • Drop it at their door or have it delivered! (This way they won’t feel pressure to show up for an interaction if they aren’t feeling up to it!)

      • You can grab a few groceries that are healthy and need no preparation and leave it on their doorstep.  Think:

      • granola bars
      • fruit
      • yogurt cups
      • muffins, etc

2.  Household tasks

Remember, you cannot make them feel better, but you can do their dishes or straighten up their space!  Visual clutter tends to add fuel to the depression fire, but usually there’s no energy to do anything about it. You could:

      • Do their dishes if you stop by for a quick visit.

      • Clean or straighten their space for them.  If you’re too busy (and financially able) send a one-time cleaner to their house! 

      • Do a load of laundry! Pick a load full of the essentials they will need for the next few days. Laundry felt like an insurmountable task for me.

3. Childcare (if they have kids)

This is HUGE. Parenting takes SO much energy—even when you’re healthy. While depressed, it can feel impossible. I would zombie my way through the day providing basic needs and nothing more, praying for the moment it’s safe to crawl back in bed.

      • Take the kids for an hour, a day, whatever you’re able! (and they’re comfortable with, of course!) 

      • Don’t leave room for guilt or for them to have to make decisions. For example, you could say:

     “I’m going to take your kids for a few hours on Thursday so you can rest, would 2pm work?”

      • Watch their kids for an hour or two in their home.  Allow your friend to sleep or rest in the other room.

Emotional needs


      • Don’t assume you know how they feel.  Ask questions to gain insight, but do not prod. Be a safe place for them to express themselves without judgment. 

      • It may not be helpful to offer advice or suggestions like “maybe you should go for a walk, I hear exercise is supposed to help!”.  While well-meaning (and true!)  it will usually bring discouragement for your friend who is probably struggling to accomplish the smallest of daily tasks like getting out of bed, showering, and eating.  Chances are,  they know how important movement and eating well is to mental health, but are unable to do any of that at this point.

Send check-in texts (don’t call)

I felt loved and cared for when a few of my friends who knew I was struggling sent daily check-in texts, short encouragements, scripture that reminded me of the truths I believe.

You may not know what to say, that is okay.  Showing up, even if you say the “wrong” words, is what matters.

In my experience, when depressed, my brain is too jumbled to comprehend or even read the bible. But when a friend would send me small, digestible bits of scripture, I could hold on to that.

There have been times in my past where I would have my husband read scripture to me.  It brought me comfort to hear God’s word, when reading was too difficult.  

Pray for them

You can only do so much.  Surrender them to God, who is steadfast and merciful.  Lay their health at the feet of Jesus—who has experienced deep despair firsthand and understands what they are going through.  

To go a step further, record yourself reading a prayer you are praying over them.  Or text them a specific prayer for them.  

Be patient & persistent

      • You may not receive the communication or appreciation you would like.  Try not to get discouraged.  It is not personal.  This friend has limited internal resources at the moment (see: first paragraph of this post!) Keep checking in. 

      • Don’t set expectations or a timeline on how long your friend’s depression should or will last. It varies for everyone. If you set expectations, you may be disappointed.

Encourage your friend to seek professional help (if they haven’t already)

      • Ask what professional resources they currently have (counselor, psychiatrist, etc.).

      • Encourage them to make an appointment ASAP if they haven’t yet.

      • Check in frequently about whether they have gotten the help they need.  Maybe even help them with this one if necessary.  Sometimes, if the depression is bad enough, it is hard to know where to begin.

Understand your role

      • It is not your responsibility to fix them.  You couldn’t, even if you tried.  You are there to support, encourage, and to love them through this.

      • Set boundaries:  It is not healthy for this to be all consuming for you.  Set boundaries for yourself and your friend.  Do the things you can, release the things you can’t.  Ultimately, the wellbeing of your friend is in the hands of our loving, always present God.  He doesn’t abandon the sick.  He sees them and cares for them deeply.  Take a breath–your role is to walk alongside your friend.  

If you are reading this, I assume you have a heart for helping a friend struggling with depression.  I am thankful for that.  Depression can be lonely,  your care will mean so much.  

If you have more questions or have something to add to this post, I would love to hear from you!

And if you know someone who this post would benefit, please share!

I appreciate your love and support


  1. Alex Perez June 5, 2020

    Hi Lacey,

    I came across your website through Facebook. I just wanted to say that this is a nicely written and useful post. Keep up the excellent work! 😊

    1. Lacey Doyle June 26, 2020

      Thank you for your encouragement! It means so much. I’m glad you found it!


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