|EQI.org Home | Teen Suicide
How to Help a
On various parts of the EQI.org
site we have suggestions for how to help someone with
depression. This page is writtten mainly for how to help
a depressed teen, but it also collects general
suggestions for what you can do whether it is a depressed
friend or any other depressed person.
This is a new page to try to
collect all the suggestions in one place.
to Help a Suicidal Teen
Them Identify Feelings and Their Causes
- How to Help Someone Who is Depressed
Doesn't help - Saying "It's just a phase"
to Help Someone Who Is Being Abused
Help Them Identify Feelings and
Here is one example of using our
list of common
negative feelings to help a
teenager. On this day a teen was feeling an urge to cut.
To help her make it through the moment without cutting,
we asked her to look at the list to see which feelings
applied to her. Here are her responses:
ashamed,cut own, embarrassed,
disrespected, labeled, powerless, alone, brushed off,
lonely, misunderstood, unknown, invisible, accused,
misled, disapproved of, over-protected, terrified,
insecure, scared, suspicious
Here is a copy of the dialogue:
Helper: Helper: Wow. That is a
Hurting teen: Yeah
Helper: Can you try to explain
each one a little bit? Or some of them, the main ones
Hurting Teen: Ask me one
Helper: Ok, lets start at the
beginning... ashamed, then cut down.
Hurting teen: Ok...I feel
ashamed by being bisexual and cutting. And I feel cut
down because people say things to make me feel like
I'm not worth anything.
Helper: Like who says things
that hurt you and make you feel worthless?
Hurting Teen: My dad's friends
and this guy I have known a long time.
Helper: Like what do they say
Hurting Teen: They say I am
such a bad person that I can't possibly really be my
Helper: What do they say is so
bad about you?
Hurting Teen: Well, like that I
am a cutter, and a smoker and I am bi
Helper: What do you feel
Hurting Teen: That no one likes
me or loves me.
Here is another example of using
the list of
common negative feelings.
In this case the teen was being seen by social workers
because her father had been sexually harassing her.
Helper says: look at the list
and tell me which u feel at home, and if u want, add
who u feel that way with.
Teen says: ok Stereotyped by my
mum and dad, offended by my parents and brother and
social workers and police
ok how do u feel sterotyped by ur mom
shes like oh teengers ur age.....
i just wana shout im not a teenager but im anna im
not like everyone else. everones different
ur not like everyone else anna
i can see that
lectured to by my family
Imprisoned - parents
Alone, Ignored, Insignificant
these words r really good they describe how i feel
who punishes u
A good friend or counselor would
then help the person try to figure out the causes of the
feelings and what would help them feel better in each
Here is a list adapted
- Show you care. Maybe
write or send a note saying something like:
"I just want you to know I am thinking of
you and I'd like to help. If there is anything I
can do, please tell me because I would feel
better if I knew I was helping you. I care about
- Try to be
non-judgmental. The most valuable thing you can
give someone is your time and the chance to talk,
if they want to. Realise that you won't get much
back, and you need to keep offering support even
if it is pushed away.
- Remember that people
don't always tell you when they are depressed.
They put on a brave, bright face even when they
are cracking up inside.
- Share her/his fears.
If we are depressed we shut ourselves away, it's
a desperate defense, for which we pay a heavy
price. You can help by taking her/him by the hand
and try to connect them back to the world.
- This is NOT the time
to start giving advice or come up with a plan for
self-improvement. Maybe you can talk about
occasions when you, too, have felt loneliness,
discouragement and confusion.
- Be patient.
Depression has to run its course.
- Reassure her/him
she/he is not alone. You can help by lessening
their isolation. Do it with cups of tea or long
walks or sitting in their room or in a room
nearby and staying silent. Help them feel in
control by asking if it is okay if you stay
there. If they can't talk, try holding their hand
and asking them to squeeze once for yes and twice
for no. Or once for yes and nothing for no.
- There may be times
when she/he is hostile and aggressive ("help
me, help me - stay away!" is the message a
depressed person gives), times when he/she won't
answer the door or phone - your job is to keep
trying, preventing isolation - leaving messages,
send letters, turn up in person.
- Depression may be the
beginning - not the end. Perhaps this
debilitating, energy-draining, all-consuming
black hole serves a purpose. Perhaps we are being
forced to make painful changes to our
- "Depression is a
dark room where we are developing the next
chapter of our lives before living it"
(Quote from poet Gwyneth Lewis).
- "Depression is
often a sign that life needs to be drastically
changed" (Adapteed from Philip Toynbee)
- Sometimes we are like
animals who, if we are to finish the journey,
need to retire to a safe place to let our wounds
heal. Recovery is painful. But it may be
necessary for our survival.
- Give your friend
practical help: Someone who is depressed may find
it hard to get dressed, go for a walk (though
exercise produces feel-good endorphins and
reconnects them to the outside world), they may
be eating badly too - or not at all.
- Shop/cook for your
friend if it is okay with him/her.
- Deep lethargy may
mean your friend is as physically incapitated as
if she had broken every bone in her body. She/he
may need help washing clothes, cleaning, buying
toilet paper. Don't wait to be asked, just do it.
- Build our own support
network. Don't forget to look after yourself too.
It's tough supporting a friend/relative with
depression, you miss who he/she used to be, you
are afraid he/she is contemplating suicide. So
make sure you also have support.
- You can cooperate
with them, you can give love and support
- Books to read:
"When someone you love has depression
"- by Barbara Baker - it's full of practical
information and treatment options, including
drugs and counselling. It also gives practical
advice on how to cope.