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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    My friend is depressed and won't seek help... what to do?

    I am a 25 year old female and my friend who is male is definitely depressed. The depression was triggered by the loss of his job followed by a bad breakup. He isn't the type to talk to people but he has shared some of the details with me. I'm not a professional and therefor do not trust myself to give the best advice. What should I do for a friend who will not seek outside help?
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    beyondblue is a national, independent, not-for-profit organisation working to address issues associated with depression, anxiety and related disorders in Australia.beyondblue is a bipartisan initiative of … View Profile

    Can I suggest you order the free beyondblue carers guide which provides friends and family members with a step by step guide to assisting someone to get help for conditions like depression and anxiety. It offers advice about approaching the subject, finding help, supporting someone through treatment, dealing with resistance and importantly, looking after yourself. You can order on line at www.beyondblue.org.au or through calling 1300 22 4636.
    Best wishes.

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    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

    This is a tough one. No one can make another person seek help if they are not willing. We can, however, potentially influence people we care about. Listening can be a great start, and perhaps if your friend knows that you listened without judging him or jumping in straight away to give advice he may just seek help in his own time. You could also consider expressing your concern - or even just pointing out what you have noticed. For example, “Hey John, I've noticed you seem pretty down lately (or have been tired a lot, or not your normal self). I'm worried about you. Have you thought about talking to your doctor or some other health professional about it”. 

    If you have tried encouraging a friend and they are very definite that they won't seek help you could try other approaches such as inviting them out for a walk or to see a movie. Exercise and getting out and about are important strategies to deal with depression.

    If you are really concerned about a friend, for instance if they have told you that they are thinking about hurting him / herself in some way then you need to think about being more insistent about them seeking help and perhaps calling someone else or taking them to the doctor (or if really urgent to an emergency department).

    Some people who won't see their doctor or a psychologist may consider calling a service such as Lifeline, Kidshelpline or Beyondblue. 

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    My research interests include immunology and the mechanisms of amyloid formation. The latter has implications for people who are dealing with Alzheimer's Disease, Parkinson's Disease … View Profile

    I think that the contributions from beyondblue and Louise are both excellent.

    One thing (which the beyondblue contribution touched on) that I would like to emphasise is this:

    Please remember to *look after yourself first*. That is not a selfish thing to do. Supporting a friend or family member who is dealing with mental illness can be stressful. If we don't *look after ourselves first* then our capacities to support those who matter to us can get messed up and also could have adverse personal outcomes.

    With care.

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