Helping someone with depression

Identifying the signs and symptoms of depression in a friend or a loved one can be very difficult. You may notice that they seem tired all the time and they may be experiencing difficulties with sleeping and might even seem stressed or withdrawn a lot of the time.

There are many different types of depression and spotting the symptoms isn't easy, especially if someone has been feeling the same way for a long time. Depression can affect anyone, but most people will get better with the right treatment and support.

The person may have stopped doing things they once used to enjoy such as gardening, going for walks, reading or partaking in a hobby. The person may open up to you about their feelings particularly if they are not feeling themselves and identify low mood. Unfortunately, a lot of people will try to convince you that they’re feeling fine and there is nothing wrong with them. If this is the case, then the person could well be suffering from depression. If you would like to know more information about depression or have any questions, you can email the AWARE support address This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

Approaching the subject of depression and mental health with someone

Being open to mental health can break down the stigma that still surrounds it today. You don't have to be an expert to talk and listen to someone, it's often the little things that make a massive difference. Depression is a common illness that affects 1 in 4 people in Northern Ireland. It's important to remind the person that they are not alone and that there is help available. AWARE offer support groups throughout Northern Ireland - no appointment needed and its free of charge. 

If you are worried that the person is having thoughts of completing suicide, it's important not to leave them on their own. Take the time to sit down with the person and talk about their feelings. Don't feel tempted to provide a solution - listening to them and allowing them to speak about it is most important. Asking open ended questions such as "How did that make you feel?" allows the person to continue opening up knowing that you are actively listening. 

If the person has previously been diagnosed with a mental illness has suicidal thoughts, contact a member of their care team or the centre or clinic where they were being treated. If you don't have these details you can bring the person to the nearest Accident and Emergency Unit for treatment. Or perhaps call LifeLine on 0808 808 8000 or any of the other 24 hour helplines detailed below. 

Starting the conversation 

  • Take a walk with the person you are worrying about. Getting out into the fresh air can help them open up.
  • Sit down with a friend, colleagues or family member and ask them, "How are you?"
  • Tell the person how you are feeling today. Did something make you angry or sad? Tell them. 
  • Let the person know that you care about them and they are not alone. 
  • Talk about the AWARE website and the useful resources on the website about depression and mental health.
  • Suggest the person looks at the 'Do One Thing' campaign. This encourages someone to do one thing every day that will help improve their mental health and make them feel good about themselves. This could be something as simple as getting of the bus one stop earlier and walking the rest of the way, getting in touch with an old friend or picking up an old hobby that you used to enjoy. 

24 hour helplines for help and support 

LifeLine - 0808 808 8000

Samaritans - 116 123

Childline - 0800 1111

Click here to watch 18 year old Emma Norris give her advice on how to talk to someone with depression.

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