Imagine constantly feeling tired despite how much you’ve slept. Feeling like you have to force yourself to go to work each day and not be able to focus. Feeling guilty for not being productive and internalizing these thoughts as shame. Feeling numb to things you used to enjoy. Feeling hopeless that things will not get better.

These are some commonly reported feelings for the 16 million adults in the U.S. who have clinical depression. And unfortunately, more and more people are experiencing depression worldwide. It’s currently the number one cause of disability, and it’s predicted to be the number one global burden of disease by 2030. 

Because depression is often isolating, it’s important for loved ones to support those who may be struggling. If you know someone with depression here’s how you can help.

Be mindful of your reaction

If someone shares that they’re depressed but they don’t know why, don’t judge them for not knowing the root of their symptoms. People with clinical depression feel depressed regardless of what’s happening in their lives—there doesn’t need to be a reason.

Things not to say:

  • “But you have a great life.”
  • “You don’t seem depressed to me.”
  • “It’s probably just a phase. Everyone goes through hard times.”

Things to say:

  • “That sounds really tough. Is there anything I can do to help?

  • “I’m here for you, and I support you.”

  • “Have you considered seeing a mental health professional?”

Encourage them to get help

Many people who engage in treatment find relief and get better. You can offer to help them find information about depression and a mental health professional, give them a ride to their appointment, or even go in with them if they’re nervous. You can also follow up with them about their process to find the right therapist or how treatment is going once they’ve started. This is a complicated illness, so it is important to support people in continuing their journey to feeling better if the first mental health provider or treatment does not help.

Be empathetic

If you’ve ever experienced feelings of depression when something happened in your life, think back to that time and recall how difficult it was. Now imagine how challenging it would be to feel like that every day.

Recognize that you don’t need to fully understand what your loved one is going through to show you care. Simply listening to them, validating their experiences, and offering your support will go a long way in helping them feel seen and respected.

Depression is one of the most common health conditions. With the right help and support, millions of people can experience better outcomes in reducing their symptoms and improving their work, education, and relationships.