So, an online acquaintance of mine has mentioned that they're suffering from severe depression recently, and my natural response is to want to offer them support and encouragement - maybe suggest that they should see a psychologist and get some medication for the condition. However, I'm uncertain of how to do so, since I remember reading that depression can cause you to interpret things that people say to you in a negative light, and it's my understanding that the American health system is not the greatest, and thus they might not be able to afford medication.

How should I approach this? Naturally, I don't want to do more harm than good, and cause them to start thinking things like "he's being smug about how his country's medical system is better than mine" or "I can't afford medication; I'm worthless because I'm poor". Are there any general guidelines on how non-medically trained people should approach interactions with depressed people?

  • $\begingroup$ I wonder if this question should be classified as seeking for professional help? But apparently this question says that a suitable professional help is hard to find here $\endgroup$
    – Ooker
    Mar 23, 2021 at 13:13
  • $\begingroup$ @Ooker I'm sure that professional help would doubtlessly be of assistance to them, but I'm uncertain if they'd be able to afford it or not. $\endgroup$
    – nick012000
    Mar 23, 2021 at 13:35
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Rebecca's answer here is possibly relevant: meta.stackexchange.com/a/340597/401068 $\endgroup$
    – Bryan Krause
    Mar 23, 2021 at 15:15

1 Answer 1


How untrained people should approach interactions with depressed people or any other mental health problem?

The main point to make is that you must not try to counsel them.

I believe you may have worked this out for yourself, and I don't want to sound patronising and "tell you how to suck eggs", but to be clear being untrained, you can cause more harm than good if you try to counsel them.

The only thing you can do is be a good listener and listen without judgement.

The moment you start to judge that person on what they say, you start to be harmful to them.

If faced with talk of suicide

If you are faced with talk of suicide, while Rebecca's answer in meta.stackexchange.com mentioned in the comments by @BryanKrause suggests not to repeat "canned comments about suicide hotlines", you do need to bear in mind your own position in all this.

Remember — trained or untrained, you cannot be there for that person 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It will not be healthy for you or them.

In a slightly different way to what is suggested in MTL's answer to the same question in meta.stackexchange.com you can tell them:

I am here to listen right now, but please bear in mind that I may not be here all the time. Any time I'm not around to talk to and you feel suicidal, there are helplines available for you to call too and a full list is available at http://suicide.org/international-suicide-hotlines.html

When dealing with talk of suicide, Rebecca's answer is very good for pointers regarding worries you may have, so it may be beneficial for you to take some time to read through what she says.


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