If you have never experienced depression, then it will be difficult to know how somebody is feeling. It’s not the same as being ‘depressed’ about something, such as relationship issues or money problems, though those factors can lead to depression. Often, a person with depression is unable to answer why they are feeling low, and the way they explain how they feel may differ from person to person. One day they may feel perfectly fine, the next they may wake up and feel overwhelming feelings of sadness and hopelessness, despite life being generally positive. We are still no further in understanding how the illness is caused, though scientists suggest a chemical imbalance in the brain, but it is more complex than that. On this site, we have looked at the signs of depression. These are the things you need to look out for amongst your family and friends. If you know somebody exhibiting these signs, and you discover that depression is the cause, you will want to know how you can help. Understandable, you are a caring person after all. Here are some ways you can show support. Show moral support You may not understand how your friend or family member is feeling, but you can be there for them. Your care should be unconditional, and not dependent on them behaving in a certain way. So don’t tell them to ‘man up’ for example, as that is impossible for somebody with depression, as they can’t just snap out of how they are feeling. Rather, be a listening ear, whether in person and on the telephone. Be positive, and offer to take part in activities with them that could lift their mood, such as exercise. You can’t be their only source of moral support, as it can be exhausting for you, but make as much time as you can to be there when they need you. Give them space Sometimes, people with depression need space. During the times when they feel ill, they can feel ultra-sensitive, and so prefer alone time to protect themselves from situations and people where they might feel worse. It’s fine to give them space, so don’t be offended or unduly worried if they tell you they need to be alone for awhile. They know how they are feeling, and will often have the tools to take care of themselves without outside interaction. Time alone to recharge and get better is normal. Of course, too much space can also be a bad thing, so if you haven’t seen them for days, you might want to check in on them, with a quick phone call or a text to let them know they haven’t been forgotten. Don’t be a doctor You probably aren’t medically qualified, so don’t assume you know what is wrong with the person, despite what you have read on the internet. It’s the job of the local GP, or specialists to offer qualified opinion. You can point your loved one to these sources, and you may even get advice from the professionals yourself as you seek to support the unwell person, but you can never replace them. Look after yourself As we said earlier, helping somebody with depression can be exhausting. You will want to offer support, but you can’t be around 24/7. Love the person as best as you can, but understand that loving somebody does not mean having to be around them all the time. If you burn yourself out, you won’t be in the best position to help anyway. Do what you can, but share the responsibility with others who care, and work together in your support. Final thought Your love and care will not go unnoticed. The person you are helping will appreciate your support, and their life will be made better because of it. Friends and family are important when depression sets in, but also seek the advice from professionals if you have particular cause for concern or need further advice on how to help.