Disclosure: As a BetterHelp affiliate, we receive compensation from BetterHelp if you purchase products or services through the links provided.

Depression is a complex and debilitating mental health condition that affects millions of individuals worldwide. It can be an incredibly challenging experience for both those directly affected and their loved ones. 

When someone we care about is dealing with depression but refuses to seek professional help, it can leave us feeling helpless and uncertain about the best course of action.

However, it’s important to remember that there are still meaningful ways we can support and assist them through their journey, even if they are resistant to treatment.

In this article, we will explore strategies and approaches to help a depressed person who refuses treatment.

But first, let’s go over some of the major signs and symptoms of depression to help you recognize when a loved one might need help. 

Signs and Symptoms of Depression

Some of the major signs and symptoms of depression that you should look out for include:

1. Persistent Sadness and Low Mood: One of the primary symptoms of depression is an enduring feeling of sadness or a depressed mood.

The individual may experience a deep sense of emptiness, hopelessness, or despair that persists for most of the day, nearly every day. They may describe feeling “down” or “blue” without any obvious trigger. 

2. Loss of Interest or Pleasure: Depression often robs individuals of their ability to derive pleasure or interest from activities they previously enjoyed.

Hobbies, socializing, or engaging in favorite pastimes may no longer bring them satisfaction or joy. 

3. Changes in Appetite and Weight: Fluctuations in weight are common symptoms of depression. Some individuals may experience a significant decrease or increase in appetite, leading to unintended weight loss or gain.

4. Sleep Disturbances: Sleep disturbances are prevalent among individuals with depression. They may struggle to fall asleep or experience frequent excessive sleepiness or awakenings during the night.

5. Fatigue and Loss of Energy: People with depression often report feeling physically and mentally drained, even after minimal exertion.

Simple tasks that were once manageable may become overwhelming and exhausting. 

6. Difficulty Concentrating and Making Decisions: Depression can impair cognitive function, leading to difficulties with concentration and memory.

Individuals may experience a sense of mental fog or find it hard to focus on the tasks at hand. 

7. Feelings of Worthlessness or Guilt: Depression often manifests as feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt. Individuals may blame themselves for their perceived shortcomings or past mistakes, even if they are objectively unwarranted. 

8. Recurrent Thoughts of Death or Suicidal Ideation: In severe cases of depression, individuals may experience recurrent thoughts of death, dying, or suicidal ideation. 

Helping a Depressed Person

Image Credit: womensmentalhealth.org

When faced with a loved one who is struggling with depression, offering support and assistance can be a vital lifeline.

While it is important to remember that professional help is often necessary, our presence and understanding can play a powerful role in their journey to recovery.

Let’s explore some effective ways to help a depressed person who may be resistant to treatment.

1. Understanding the Complexity of Depression:

To effectively help a depressed person, it is important to develop a deeper understanding of depression as a mental health condition.

Depression is not simply a matter of feeling sad or down; it involves a complex interplay of biological, psychological, and environmental factors.

Understanding that depression is not a sign of weakness or a character flaw but a legitimate medical condition can help us approach the situation with empathy and compassion.

2. Active Listening and Open Communication:

Active listening involves not only hearing the words spoken but also paying attention to the emotions and non-verbal cues behind those words.

It requires giving our undivided attention, showing empathy, and responding with genuine interest.

By actively listening, we can validate the person’s feelings and experiences, making them feel heard and understood.

This includes avoiding interrupting or dismissing their emotions and refraining from offering unsolicited advice or judgment.

Instead, our focus should be on providing a safe space for them to express themselves without fear of criticism or invalidation.

Open communication encourages the individual to express their thoughts and feelings openly, without fear of judgment or rejection.

It creates an atmosphere of trust and acceptance where they feel comfortable sharing their struggles. 

By fostering open communication, we can help them feel supported and enable constructive discussions about their emotions, experiences, and potential treatment options.

3. Express Your Concern and Offer Support:

Expressing genuine concern and offering support is a crucial step in helping a depressed person.

Let them know that you care about their well-being and that you are there to support them throughout their journey. 

Choose a private and comfortable setting to have an open and honest conversation. Use compassionate language to express your concern, emphasizing that you are there to listen and help without judgment.

Encourage them to share their feelings and experiences, and let them know that they are not alone in their struggles. Validate their emotions and assure them that seeking help is a sign of strength rather than weakness. 

Reassure the depressed person that you are committed to supporting them, whether through emotional support, accompanying them to appointments, or helping them find appropriate resources.

4. Encourage Self-Care and Healthy Lifestyle Choices:

Depression often diminishes an individual’s motivation and ability to engage in self-care activities, making it crucial to encourage healthy lifestyle choices.

Gently remind the person of the importance of self-care and the positive impact it can have on their mental well-being. 

Encourage them to engage in activities they once enjoyed, even if they don’t initially feel like it.

Taking small steps, such as going for a walk, practicing mindfulness, or engaging in a hobby, can help improve mood and provide a sense of accomplishment.

Additionally, emphasizes the significance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Encourage them to prioritize regular exercise, as physical activity has been shown to boost mood and reduce symptoms of depression. 

Promote a balanced diet with nutritious meals, as proper nutrition plays a role in supporting overall mental health. Adequate sleep is also important, so encourage them to establish a consistent sleep routine.

5. Involve Trusted Individuals:

Sometimes, it can be beneficial to involve trusted individuals who can provide additional support and perspective when supporting someone with depression.

This may include family members, close friends, or other individuals who have a meaningful relationship with the person.

By involving trusted individuals, you can create a network of support and ensure that the person receives comprehensive care.

Collaborate with these trusted individuals to develop a unified approach to support the person with depression.

Share information, observations, and concerns with each other to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the person’s needs. 

By working together, you can provide consistent support, identify any patterns or changes, and offer different perspectives and insights.

However, ensure that confidentiality and privacy are respected throughout the process, and obtain the person’s consent before involving others. 

6. Set Realistic Expectations:

When supporting a person with depression, it is important to set realistic expectations for their recovery process.

Understand that overcoming depression is not a linear journey, and recovery takes time. It may involve ups and downs, setbacks, and gradual progress. Avoid placing undue pressure or expecting immediate changes.

Recognize that everyone’s experience with depression is unique, and recovery timelines can vary.

Encourage the person to focus on their personal growth and self-care rather than comparing themselves to others or setting unrealistic goals.

Help them celebrate even small achievements and milestones along the way.

It is also essential to manage your own expectations. Understand that you cannot single-handedly “fix” or “cure” the person’s depression.

Your role is to provide support, encouragement, and resources while respecting their autonomy and choices. 

Be patient, understanding, and compassionate, recognizing that the journey to recovery is a process that requires time, professional help, and individual effort.

7. Explore Alternative Treatment Options:

If the individual is resistant to traditional therapy or medication, it may be worth exploring alternative treatment options that align more closely with their preferences and beliefs. 

These may include holistic therapies, support groups, yoga, meditation, or art therapy, among others.

By presenting a range of choices, you can help them discover alternative avenues that may resonate with their needs and values.

8. Address Stigma and Misconceptions

One important aspect of supporting someone with depression is addressing the stigma and misconceptions surrounding mental health. 

Unfortunately, there is still a significant amount of societal stigma and lack of understanding when it comes to mental illnesses like depression.

This stigma can create barriers to seeking help and exacerbate feelings of shame and isolation for the person experiencing depression.

As a supporter, it is crucial to educate yourself and others about mental health, promote empathy, and challenge stigmatizing beliefs and attitudes.

Encourage open conversations about depression, sharing accurate information, and dispelling misconceptions. 

Self-Care for the Supporter

social-support friends
Image Credit: verywellmind.com

Supporting someone with depression can be emotionally challenging, and it’s essential to prioritize self-care.

Taking care of your own well-being allows you to be more present, patient, and supportive of the person you’re helping.

Here are some self-care practices to consider:

1. Set boundaries: Establish clear boundaries to ensure you have time and space for yourself. It’s okay to say no when you need to and to take breaks when necessary.

2. Seek support: Reach out to your own support network, whether it’s friends, family, or a therapist. Sharing your feelings and experiences with others can provide solace and perspective.

3. Practice self-compassion: Treat yourself with kindness and understanding. Acknowledge that supporting someone with depression can be challenging, and give yourself permission to make mistakes or feel overwhelmed without self-judgment.

4. Engage in activities you enjoy: Carve out time for activities that bring you joy and help you relax. This could be hobbies, exercise, reading, or engaging in creative pursuits.

5. Prioritize self-care routines: Take care of your physical and mental well-being through healthy habits like regular exercise, proper nutrition, sufficient sleep, and practicing stress-reduction techniques like meditation or deep breathing exercises.

Supporting someone with depression is a marathon, not a sprint. Taking care of yourself ensures that you can sustain your support over the long term and be a source of strength for the person you’re assisting.

Handling Crisis Situations

When supporting a depressed person, it is essential to be prepared for potential crisis situations. Crisis situations can include thoughts of self-harm, suicidal ideation, or a severe worsening of symptoms.

Here are some guidelines for handling such situations:

1. Take it seriously: If the person expresses thoughts of self-harm or suicide, take their statements seriously and prioritize their safety.

2. Stay calm and non-judgmental: Approach the situation with empathy and understanding. Avoid blaming or shaming the person, as this may alienate them further.

3. Encourage professional help: If the situation is urgent or life-threatening, call emergency services immediately.

Encourage the person to reach out to a mental health professional, crisis hotline, or their primary care physician.

4. Stay with them: If it is safe to do so, stay with the person until help arrives. Offer reassurance and let them know they are not alone.

5. Maintain open communication: Stay connected to the person and continue to listen and offer support. Encourage them to seek ongoing professional help and provide resources and information about available support services.

Support with BetterHelp

BetterHelp is an online counseling platform that can provide valuable support for individuals dealing with depression.

With BetterHelp, individuals have access to licensed therapists who specialize in mental health and can offer personalized guidance and treatment options. 

The convenience of online counseling allows individuals to receive support from the comfort of their own homes, eliminating barriers such as transportation or scheduling conflicts.

Whether through text, video calls, or phone sessions, BetterHelp offers accessible and effective support for those seeking assistance with their mental health concerns.


Supporting a depressed person who refuses treatment can be challenging, but it is possible to make a positive impact through the different ways mentioned above.

Each person’s journey with depression is unique, and it is crucial to respect their autonomy and choices. 

While our support is valuable, professional help is often necessary. Encourage the person to seek appropriate treatment and provide resources and information to facilitate their access to care.


1. What if the person with depression refuses all forms of help?

If the person with depression refuses all forms of help, it can be challenging. However, you can still offer support by providing a listening ear, validating their feelings, and encouraging self-care.

Respect their autonomy while gently reminding them of the potential benefits of seeking professional help.

2. Can I force someone to get treatment for depression?

In most cases, you cannot force someone to get treatment for depression unless they pose an immediate danger to themselves or others.

However, you can express your concern, provide information about available resources, and encourage them to seek help.

3. How long does it take for someone with depression to recover?

The duration of recovery from depression varies from person to person. It can take weeks, months, or even longer.

Recovery is a process, and it is important to be patient and supportive throughout the journey.



Therapists that Understand You!

Find a therapist that fully understands ALL of you. Speaking with someone who has a similar cultural background and view on the world can be very comforting.

Find a Therapist that get YOU!