Talking to someone who is depressed, particularly if you’re a friend or family member, is a very important and in some ways can be extremely helpful. The most important element is to, at some point during that discussion, to acknowledge that you understand that they’re depressed or down or sad and give them an opportunity to talk about why they’re feeling down or depressed or sad.

The first step in talking to someone with depression

So the first step is to build some sort of rapport or support towards that person so they feel comfortable to talk about what’s going on in their life, the sort of symptoms that they have and create, let’s call it a safe environment where they’re able to disclose to you what is going on with them.

Having created that safe environment, trusting environment, and if you are a friend or a family member, or indeed a work colleague, that should allow that individual to talk more about what’s going on in their life, why they’re feeling depressed and what are some of the causes.

Once again, good listening, some probing, some encouragement for them to talk more honestly will then hopefully allow a sense of what is the underlying problem. What are the underlying issues? What are the stresses in their life that could be contributing?

Where can they get help for depression?

And then finally, and hopefully, that whole situation enables a discussion about where to next, who should they see for professional help, encouragement to go and see a GP or encouragement to talk to a counsellor or psychologist. So the trick really, if you’re a family or friend, is to understand what is happening and hopefully, the outcome of all of that is for them, i.e. the person who is depressed, to go and seek help from a professional.

Dr Matthew Cullen, Psychiatrist, St Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney

Last Reviewed: 17/09/2020

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