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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    When should I be concerned about someone who is severely depressed?

    I always thought that depression was a phase and that people will eventually get out of the hole with treatment/medications. However, my friend has been depressed for almost a year and I am quite worried. When is it normal for me to become VERY concerned? (because I already am!)
  • Find a professional to answer your question

  • Grant McKell


    Grant McKell is a counselling psychologist working in Sydney's inner west with over ten years' experience. He founded HeadsUp Psychology in August, 2011. Having worked in ... View Profile

    Basically, its normal to be concerned when you ARE concerned! You can encourage your friend to see their GP who may be able to make a diagnosis and formulate a treatment plan with the assistance of a psychologist.
    As her friend, it is important to be present, caring and empathic and to give lots of unconditional attention. Make sure you are well supported and that you have a good network around you to help keep your head above water. Take care of yourself.
    Beyond Blue is a great website where more information can be found and I'd be happy to talk with you as well:

    Look out for sudden recovery when your friend says everything is now ok and seems happy. This may be a warning sign of significant self harm and you should talk with your local mental health services team immediately. I don't wish to be alarmist, but this last point is an important one.

    Hope it all goes well. Keep us posted.

  • Dr Louise Shepherd

    Clinical Psychologist, Psychologist

    I am a clinical psychologist with 15 years experience working with all sorts of goals and issues. I love working with people, helping them to ... View Profile

    Tough situation and a very common one. Depression affects all of us in some way at some stage so it is great to have some ideas about how to help. Your friend is very lucky to have you - the support and concern of a good friend is vital, especially in big cities in which people often live alone or at least quite independent lives. 

    Grant has some great advice above. 

    I'd add that you might want to simply share your anxiety / worry about your friend and also that you are concerned that you don't have the expertise to help. Perhaps saying something like, “I'm feeling really anxious lately about you and at times worrying that you are having such a tough time. Would you consider talking to your GP, or seeing a health professional who knows more about this than I do?” If the friend says no you could think about who you know in common and let them know…….for instance a flatmate or sister / parent of your friend. I'd encourage you to check first but don't promise anything you don't feel comfortable about. I'd be a bit inclined if you are very concerned to say, “have you told your mum / sister / girlfriend how bad you're feeling?” If not then perhaps you could say, “I'm so worried about you and miss your smiling face / want you to feel ok again and so if you are not going to tell them I think i might need to. I don't like being the only one who knows about this”. 

    Another approach is to encourage your friend to get out more - perhaps to meet you in the park, go for a walk, see a movie…….avoid pubs if they tend to drink too much!!! Exercise and getting out and about have been shown to be important for helping someone who is depressed.

    beyondblue or Lifeline or Kidshelpline might be good places for you to get some ideas - or as Grant suggests you could consult wtih a psychologist.

    Hope it all works out ok and that your friend gets appropriate help soon :-)

  • Dianne Zebic

    Counsellor, Psychotherapist

    Dianne Zebic has retired as of 31/01/2015 View Profile

    I feel if your gut feeling is telling you that your friend is severly depressed, then I think it would be a good idea to have a chat with them and tell them if they would like for you to organise to get some help for them asap.

    It sounds your a very loyal friend and there is so much that you can do. However your friend needs to be properly assessed by their local mental health team asap along with their GP who could then offer a referral under the Mental Health Care PLan for your friend to see a psychologist or a psychiatrist  asap. As this assessment will determine if they actually have depression, as this can only be diagnosed by a Psychologist, GP or Psychiatrist.

    The Mental Health Team  in your local area can do a home assessment if you had grave concerns for her well-being. 

    Lifeline is a free 24/7 telephone counselling service phone = 1311114  and Lifeline has a suicdal prevention service as well. I am unsure at this stage if you were to give your friend Lifeline's number if she would call them.  
                                                                                                                                                                             However at least you can give her all the options of the type of help and support you can arrange for her if she gives you the ok. She needs to call 000 if she is thinking about suicide or call to tell a loved one or yourself if she feels she can no longer cope.

    In some instances if she declines to take on board all the support you can arrange for her then you may need to make a decision do you tell her partner if she has one or another family member or friend. I think Grant and Louise explained this well in their responses above.

    I hope she gets the right professional help she needs, and it is great she has a wonderful supportive friend like you, and I hope your friend recovers soon.

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