The Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center at Duke

General Information | How to Respond to the Person Who is Depressed

Acknowledge that the person is depressed. It can be uncomfortable to acknowledge that someone you care for is depressed, but ignoring depression only makes it worse. The depressed person may feel that you do not care.

Agree with correct and positive thinking. Point out, in a supportive way, the thoughts that seem incorrect to you. For example, a depressed person might say, "Nothing is going right." But there is usually something that is going okay. You can say, "I understand you’re feeling discouraged, but let’s think of some of the things that are going right."

Encourage the person to get professional help.

Help increase the number of pleasant experiences for the person who is depressed.

Help increase the number of activities that the person who is depressed does with other people. Knowing that other people care and are available to help when needed gives people strength and confidence when facing an uncertain future. Make a list of friends and family members who are sympathetic and understanding, who give good advice and can help solve problems, and who can help your loved one turn attention away from problems and toward pleasant experiences. Make a plan to work with the people you have listed.

Set reasonable, attainable goals.

It is better to set a low goal and accomplish more than you expected than to set too high a goal and fail.


Keep working cooperatively with the depressed person. Even if he or she continues to feel depressed, don’t give up. You are probably preventing the depression from getting worse. 

(Resource: American College of Physicians Home Care Guide for Cancer – for Family and Friends Giving Care at Home, edited by Peter S. Houts, PhD, ISBN 0-943126-3004.)

There's Help for Depression 

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