How To Help Someone With Anxiety & Depression [7 Practical Steps]

As often as you may have heard the word depression or anxiety should give you an idea of how common the illness is. Interestingly, many individuals suffer from this mental illness but only a few are aware of their status.

What makes it worse is the fact that most of these individuals suffering from mental illnesses, being it depression or anxiety have no or less medical attention. People with mental illness are often regarded as ‘time wasters’ or attention seekers and this could delay recovery time.

No one says it is an easy task to care for people suffering from mental illness but it doesn’t mean you should leave them to carry the cross alone. They need your love, attention, care, and support just like any other sick person and like you’d want someone else to do for you if you were sick.

You can’t afford to be in their shoes so you can’t understand why they act the way they do.

What is Mental Illness?

Mental illness is a condition that causes serious disorder in a person’s behavior or thinking, it may also affect the mood of a person.


The most common types of mental illnesses are:

  • Clinical depression
  • Anxiety disorder
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Dementia
  • Attention-deficit/ Hyperactivity Disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
  • Autism

Common Symptoms of Depression

  • Inability to sleep
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Low self-esteem
  • Low level of energy
  • Mood swings
  • Suicidal thoughts

Common Symptoms of Anxiety

  • Sleep disturbance
  • Uneasiness
  • Digestive disturbance
  • Excessive sweating
  • Panic attack
  • Restlessness

When it comes to supporting people with depression or anxiety, there are a few things you can do to help in this situation. Although many tend to stay away and out of their lives because they don’t know how to help or what to say to make them feel better. Sometimes you don’t have to say anything. Instead, you should just hear them speak.

How To Help Someone With Anxiety and Depression

Here are a few things you can do to help a depressed or anxious friend.

1. Listen! Don’t Be Quick to Advice

When you decide to support a friend with mental illness you’d have to be committed to solving the issue at hand and by so doing, the first and basic thing anyone can do is to listen.

Not only should you listen. You should listen attentively and let them feel you’re really listening. The best way to understand a situation or someone is to hear what they have to say. This is the best way to approach the situation and maybe help solve the issue. Save what you have to say for later.

Your advice may be the best, but keep it to yourself for the time being. Paying attention to what they have to say makes them feel someone is willing to listen and understands them.

2. Give Them Hope by Reassuring Them

It must be terrible living with depression or anxiety. I don’t think anyone will heartedly accept to live in this condition. Finding the right words to tell anyone suffering from mental illness can be difficult.

Reassuring them might not be enough but it could help them understand they aren’t in the worst condition after all. Let them know you’re here for them and this can light up a kindle of hope.

3. Do Together What You Both Enjoy Doing

Being depressed can be a very lonely experience. You can help take their mind off their lonely life for a couple of minutes or hours depending on the time you can afford to spare. For guys, you can visit a game center to watch soccer matches and catch some fun. If going out is a problem, get your PlayStation or Xbox and play some games. Allow them to win even if you play better than them. They deserve some happiness.

Ladies, on the other hand, can chitchat about fun memories, watch favorite reality programs or funny clips. You can also get them to look their best by doing their makeup and polishing their nails. After which you can hit the mall or go for window shopping. Just anything to distract them a little wouldn’t be a bad idea.


4. Never Share Your Problems with Them

They already have a lot on their mind. Don’t bombard them with your version. They might be the best person to share your problems with, especially when you trust them better.

However, at this stage of their lives, they aren’t ready for the troubles. Rather, if you need to share your problems with someone, find somebody else you can trust to hear you out.

5. Take Them Away from Home

Another best way to distress someone is taking them away from what stresses them. The environment at home could be a reason for their condition. Taking them out to a quiet place to either chat or stare at nature is a good way to take their mind off their worries to help them heal.

6. Learn More About Their Condition

If you’re concerned about your loved one who you intend to support, the best thing you can do for them and yourself is to understand their situation. For you to understand this, you need to learn. This way you’ll know how to help them and speed up their recovery.

7. Spend More Time with Them

Persons with mental illness (depression or anxiety), do need people around them. They already feel lonely and this is why you have to stay in touch and assure them there’s always ‘YOU’ ready to listen and help them in every possible way so they can recover soon.

8. Encourage Them To Seek Professional Help

The truth is no matter how good your attempt at helping them may seem to you, it should not replace a trained professional’s care. Encourage them to go to the hospital or help them book an appointment with a psychiatrist. This also ensures they are getting the best possible care.

Sometimes, the psychiatrist can prescribe an anti-anxiety medication like Xanax, which can make the person feel better.

Final Thoughts

These tips on mental illness and how to help and support your loved ones in this condition may seem small but doing these little things can turn things around for that loved one. It (may) take(s) time for them to fully recover but this is the best you can do for someone you love. Show them some love, distract them from things that worsen their condition, make them laugh if you can, spend quality time with them and listen to what they have to say and above all be patient.

NB: You can check this resource on help with driving anxiety.

Guest article by Enoch Amenuvor, founder of where he shares tips on lifestyle and how to live a healthy, simple and a stress-free life.

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Omiete Charles-Davies, MBBS

Dr. Omiete Charles-Davies graduated from the University of Lagos with a degree in medicine and surgery. He is a licensed medical doctor and has worked in different private and government-owned hospitals as a general medical practitioner. For fun, he loves to travel and experience new cultures.