9 Ways to Support Struggling Loved Ones

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, an estimated 17.3 million adults in the United States experienced a depressive episode or about 7.1% of adults.(1) From the outside looking in, it’s easy to think, “Why are these people sad? They have nothing to be sad about.” But depression isn’t just being sad. It includes so much more. Depression can mean losing interest in the things you love, changes in sleep and eating habits, lack of energy, hopelessness, mood swings, agitation, excessive crying, irritability, restlessness, social isolation, restless sleep, fatigue, slowness, repeatedly going over thoughts, thoughts of suicide, and many other symptoms. (2)

It can be hard as an outsider looking in to know how to support our loved ones when they are in the thick of it. I have struggled with depression for as long as I can remember, and these are the things that have helped me the most when I am struggling. 

Here are 9 ways that you can help out struggling loved ones:

Educate Yourself:

Learn about depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. Learn the symptoms, warning signs, and when to step in. Take a suicide awareness course. The more you learn, the better you will know how to help. While most people associate depression with sadness, there are many other things to watch for, such as unusual anger or irritability, confusion, difficulty with memory, excessive fatigue, oversleeping, and physical symptoms such as stomach distress, headaches, or other muscle pain. 

You can learn more here: Types of Depression and How to Recognize Them.

Reach Out:

Find out how your person likes to communicate best and meet them where they are. Do they like phone calls, texts, or face-to-face? Once you know how they want to communicate, reach out to them. Recently, a good friend of mine saw that I was going through a hard time. She messaged me and asked if she could come to my home and make me tea and spend time together. This meant the world to me, helped cheer me up, and made me feel very loved and considered. 

Encourage Them:

When someone is dealing with mental health issues, they tend to spiral into shame and self-deprecation. Often, their inner voice is full of negativity, and they find fault in everything they do. Remind them of their positive qualities, what you love about them, assure them that everything will be okay, that they are loved, and how much they mean to you and others. A little positive reinforcement goes a long way.  

Inspired Action:

It can be hard to even breathe during depression, let alone do things like shower, eat, and clean. A person dealing with mental health issues may only be able to do the bare minimum. You can ask what they may need help with, but chances are they may be too embarrassed to ask for help. Take inspired action, send them food, show up to the house to do a chore, clean a room or cook a meal, ask them their favorite meals, and have groceries delivered to them. Early in 2024, I got sick for months with RSV, then Covid, and fell into a deep depression. I started isolating, and it was all I could do to do the bare minimum, let alone everything else in my life. My mom offered to pay for a house cleaner, and it helped me so much. A few of my coworkers at RidgeCrest offered to buy me my favorite groceries and brought them to me from an hour away! It made me feel so cared for. Doing anything to help make their life less stressful will be so helpful. Offer to create a schedule for meals, physical activity, social support, sleep, or help to organize or do chores.

No Pressure Invites:

Ask the person to join you for anything: walks, movies, hobbies, or activities they enjoy. Let them know that you understand they may not come, and that's okay. They may not come, don’t take it personally, just keep inviting. It will help them feel thought of and not forgotten, and when they are ready they will come!

Notice & Ask:

If you notice something is off, say something. Ask how you can best support them during this hard time. Let them know you are there for them for anything at any time. My best friend, who lives a state away, reached out to me recently because she noticed something was off. She told me she was there for me. So I knew she would be there on a day I was struggling. I called her and asked her to let me know that everything was going to be okay, that there was some happiness in the world, and that things changed for the better. She reassured me and helped to talk me out of my spiral. A simple “everything IS going to be okay”, goes so far.

Help With Support:

Offer to help them find support in the form of groups, therapists, counselors, and medical professionals. Offer to help them review potential forms of support. Encourage them to find support in their own way, and let them know you will be there if they need any help with the process. It can be so overwhelming and daunting to do this alone. 

Be Patient:

Mental health issues are a slow process that takes time, trial, and error. Symptoms may come and go. Stay in touch, let your loved one know you care. Regular check-ins are so helpful! Those living with mental health issues can become more withdrawn and avoid reaching out. Continue to be a positive, supportive presence, and it WILL make a difference. Don’t take things personally; it never is. If you need a break, take space. Don’t try to fix them; it can be hard to understand; your job is to be the supporting presence when you can. Instead of giving advice, ask if they would like advice; if they don’t, then don’t give any advice. If they do find out what they want advice on, and stick to that. Listening goes a long way. Avoid saying “Things could be worse”, it’s not helpful. Validate them instead, saying, “I can’t imagine how hard this is to deal with. I know I can’t make you feel better, but I am always here for you; you are not alone.” Don’t tell them to try harder, or do better, this kind of talk only feeds the shame within them. Don’t ask them why they are sad. We don’t know. We just know how we feel. 

Take Care of Yourself:

It's important to take care of yourself while you are caring for someone else with mental health issues. Don’t burn yourself out. Set boundaries, you can let your loved one know that you are there for them, but this comes with limitations. For example, you can say you are available to talk, but not until you get home from work. Boundaries can help your loved one know what to expect; we usually like rules, so we know how to follow them. If your boundaries bring up concerns for either of you, offer to help come up with a contingency plan that works around the boundaries. This may involve finding resources like hotlines, other friends or family, or other options. Another example would be you may be available to bring them a meal once a week, instead of every day, but involving other friends or loved ones can create a more extensive support network. Be sure to practice self-care, recharge, and ask for help if you need it. 

Thank you for loving and taking care of someone struggling. It means the world to us that you are here trying and loving us. 

~ Written by Shae Brackett, LMT
Customer Service & Social Media Manager
Click here to meet our team. 


More Information:


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(1)- https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/major-depression
(2)- https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/symptoms-causes/syc-20356007?


*This article is intended for informational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnosetreatcure or prevent any disease. For any medical conditions please seek the appropriate licensed medical professional. 

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