Tips for helping a friend struggling with depression


What is depression?

We all go through difficult times in our lives when we might feel down, enjoy life less, and want to be alone. But for one in five teens these experiences could grow into clinical depression.

When we are clinically depressed, we experience many symptoms of depression on most days to a point where they start to get in the way of our lives. People who are clinically depressed might feel sadness, have a hard time dealing with their emotions, or be very tired. Sometimes people going through clinical depression can experience a change in their appetite, weight, and sleep. Clinical depression can make it hard to concentrate in your classes. People might start withdrawing from their friends and family. Guilt, hopelessness, or suicidal thoughts also might be common for people struggling with depression.

What causes depression?

A number of things come together to cause depression. Some people have a biological vulnerability that may result in depression. For others, depression can be triggered by a challenging situation, major setback, or difficult loss. Problems with friendships, romantic relationships, and family can cause and maintain depression. Some also may struggle to know how to deal with the difficult thoughts, emotions, and conflicts that are created by depression. 

How is depression treated?

There are many effective treatments available for depression. A mental health professional can help you decide what type of treatment is right for you.

Traditional psychotherapy is often helpful for a wide variety of people with depression. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and interpersonal therapy are two treatments with the most documented support. In both of these treatments, a therapist helps you understand your depression, learn skills to face your challenges, and help you become more active and connected to others. There also are several antidepressant medications, with serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) being the most commonly prescribed drug for depression.

For many, either talk therapy or medication on their own can help reduce depression. For others, combining talk therapy and medication leads to better results. 

How can I help someone with depression?

One of the best things you can do if your friend is struggling with depression is to help them connect with support. Encourage your friend to talk to a trusted adult—a parent, relative, teacher, guidance counselor, or their doctor.

The Jed Foundation has a tool to help you talk to someone who may be depressed. You can also share your concerns with an adult you trust and get their advice on how to support your friend. If you are worried someone is not in a safe place, you can sit with your friend as they text the Crisis Text Line (text HOME to 741741), call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255), go with them to a hospital, or offer to call 911.

What should I do if I am depressed?

To find out if you are experiencing symptoms of depression, consider taking a free online screening.

If you are experiencing depression, talk to someone you trust. A trusted adult can help you get the support you need during this difficult time.

You can also reach out to crisis support services like the Crisis Text Line (text HOME to 741741) or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255. If you are in a crisis, go to your nearest hospital emergency room or call 911.