Depression: is it affecting someone you know?

If you know someone who is not acting like their usual self and seems down, worried or not enjoying their usual activities, it is possible they are experiencing symptoms of depression.

Symptoms of depression include:

  • low mood that lasts for 2 weeks or longer;
  • loss of interest or pleasure in usual activities;
  • trouble sleeping or sleeping more than usual;
  • excessive tiredness;
  • reduced or increased appetite;
  • withdrawing from friends and family;
  • difficulty concentrating;
  • feelings of guilt, irritability, anxiety and/or worthlessness; and
  • loss of self-esteem.

How to help

It can be difficult to know exactly what to do if you think someone close to you may have depression. If you are concerned, here are some suggestions on how to help.

  • Spend time with them and let them know you care about them.
  • Talk with them about how they are feeling. Listen to what they are saying without being judgemental. Be reassuring and supportive – someone who is depressed may have difficulty talking about what they are experiencing and feel sensitive or defensive.
  • Let them know that you have noticed a change in their behaviour and that you are concerned about them. Ask them what they need from you.
  • Suggest they talk to their doctor or a mental health professional. Offer to help them make an appointment and go with them. Young people may consider talking to a school counsellor or youth worker.
  • Suggest talking to an anonymous phone support line if they are reluctant to seek professional help initially.
  • Find out about depression together, or help them get information on depression and its symptoms.
  • Encourage them to stay involved with their usual routine and enjoyable activities as much as possible.
  • Encourage activities that help promote mental and physical health – healthy eating, physical activity, and regular sleep.
  • Discourage the use of alcohol and drugs as a way of dealing with distressing symptoms.
  • Ask direct questions if you are concerned about suicide. If there is a risk of self-harm or suicide, make sure someone stays with the person and get medical help straight away.

What not to do

  • Don’t put pressure on them or tell them to ‘snap out of it’.
  • Don’t avoid them.
  • Don’t assume the problem will go away on its own.
  • Don’t encourage the use of alcohol or drugs.
National Helplines
If you or someone you know is depressed and/or having suicidal thoughts, see your doctor, or phone one of these helplines.
Lifeline (24 hours) 13 11 14
Kids Helpline (under 18 years of age) 1800 55 1800
Just Ask - rural mental health information 1300 13 11 14
Mensline Australia (24 hours) 1300 78 99 78
SANE Helpline - mental illness information, support and referral 1800 18 SANE (7263)
Suicide Call Back Service (24 hours) - free telephone counselling support 1300 659 467
Last Reviewed: 13 February 2013

Online doctor - see a doctor online can't replace advice from a trusted healthcare professional. If you are located in Australia, you can consult a Doctor now via video, available on desktop (Chrome/Firefox), iPhone or Android.


1. SANE Australia. When sadness won’t go away: depression and related disorders in young people; 2010. (accessed Jan 2013).
2. Beyondblue. Practical ways to help someone with depression (April 2010). (accessed Jan 2013).
3. Beyondblue. Understanding depression (October 2009). (accessed Jan 2013).
4. Headspace – National Youth Mental Health Foundation. Information for parents and carers. (accessed Jan 2013).
5. Beyondblue. Depression: helping yourself (updated 2 Feb 2008). (accessed Jan 2013).
6. Headspace – National Youth Mental Health Foundation. Finding help. (accessed Jan 2013).


myDr provides comprehensive Australian health and medical information, images and tools covering symptoms, diseases, tests, medicines and treatments, and nutrition and fitness.