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Helping someone with depression

Depression doesn't just affect the person with the illness. It also affects their family and friends.

Is it an emergency?

Get help immediately if the person:

  • has deliberately hurt themselves
  • talks about suicide or about harming someone else (read our factsheet on helping a suicidal person)
  • is disorientated (does not know who they are, where there are, or what time of day it is)
  • has hallucinations (hearing or seeing things that are not real) or delusions (very strange beliefs, often based on the content of the hallucinations)
  • is confused or not making sense.

If the person has any of these symptoms, call 000 in Australia or 111 in New Zealand, or visit the emergency department at your nearest hospital.

More about helping a suicidal person 

How to help someone with depression

If you are the family, friend or carer of someone with depression, these are some things you can do to help:

  • Encourage the person to stick with treatment, including medication and keeping appointments with their doctor and/or psychologist.
  • Understand when the person is too unwell to work, go out, or be active.
  • Avoid telling the person to ‘just try harder’.
  • Get help if the person talks about suicide.

Sometimes a person with depression loses hope or just doesn’t feel like getting help. You may need to persuade them to see a doctor or psychologist. But later, after they have recovered, they can see that not wanting treatment was part of the illness.

More about caring for someone with a mental illness

Support and information for families


Mental Health Carers Helpline
1300 554 660

SANE Helpline
1800 187 263

New Zealand

Supporting Families in Mental Illness
0800 732 825

Page last reviewed Apr 2017 | C1035V1

This is a general guide only, and does not replace individual medical advice. Please speak to your doctor for advice about your situation. The RANZCP is not liable for any consequences arising from relying on this information. Subject matter experts, people with lived experience of mental illness and carers all contributed to this fact sheet.