Father holds son over shoulder while posing for photo

“You are never alone. I will always have your back and do my best to understand, help, and support you. Ask and I’m there.”

Many parents who’ve helped their sons fight depression have actually ended up forging stronger and more open relationships with their sons in the future.

Let your son know you will be there for him no matter what and that you are ready to help whenever he needs it.

If you’ve noticed some of the symptoms of depression, here are some tips for helping your son:

1. Be a role model

Let him know it’s okay to talk about stress, sadness, pain, and/or depression by doing so yourself.

It’s important to share your own feelings with your son, in order to build trust, to demonstrate what sharing feelings is like, and to normalize the experience of people dealing with difficult emotions. If you have any personal experience with depression (or know a friend who does) tell him about it. This also pertains to other issues in life, like grief after someone has passed, stress after losing a job, or another transition in your life. The important thing is to start a conversation that doesn’t compare your experiences to his, but shows him it’s okay to talk about the tough parts of life.

2. Let him know he has your unconditional love and support

This is especially important for parents who don’t often express their love and affection for their sons. You may know you love your son and will always be there for him, but unless you say it directly (especially if he is having negative thoughts or misinterpreting things because of depression) he may simply not know it’s true.

Acknowledge your son’s feelings and focus on listening, not lecturing or judging. Let him know you will be there for him no matter how long it takes for him to feel better.

Try saying:

  • “You are never alone. I will always have your back and do my best to understand, help, and support you. Let me know how I can help and I’m there.”
  • “You know you can talk to me about anything, stressful stuff, sad stuff, whatever? I’m here for you.”

3. Let him know he’s not alone

Let him know he’s not the only guy who is facing depression and that you are also not the only person who will support him. If there are other close friends or family members that can help, let him know he can reach out to any of them; that there is a community of people behind him and a community of other men who have also successfully fought depression.

Show him our site and walk through it together. Visit our You’re Not Alone page to read more articles and over 40 stories from real men who have battled and overcome depression. Suggesting he take our Self Check may also help him realize how much depression may be affecting his life.

  • Plan to do some things together. It’s important that he doesn’t isolate himself from others in his life.
  • Going for a walk is a great way to be active and provide an opportunity to discuss things in a less intensive context.

4. Encourage him to seek professional advice

A key step in recovering from depression is seeking professional support. If he hasn’t already, encourage him to make an appointment with a doctor and explain what’s going on in his life.

When dealing with serious health issues like depression, it’s important to reach out early and seek support from those trained in helping others get better.

  • If he isn’t ready to see a doctor yet, be persistent but also give him space to realize he needs to reach out himself.
  • Sometimes it can help comparing mental health issues to other health issues like diabetes or a broken leg, which guys are more comfortable seeking help for – depression should be no different.

If you think he is having suicidal thoughts and is an imminent danger to himself or others, don’t hesitate to call 9-1-1.

5. Support yourself

Taking care of your own mental health is essential for helping you provide support for your son. Try not to blame yourself for the pain your son is feeling. Depression can and does happen to men in all walks of life, and is precipitated by a wide range of factors.

Take time for your own health and get support and advice from friends and family members. It takes a team to beat depression. You can be an integral part of that team, but you shouldn’t be the only person on it.


 

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