Friends talking at cafe

Be there for him

The best way to support a man is to let him know that we are there for him. If a guy in our life is showing symptoms of depression, it’s time to have a conversation.

It’s important to know that our job isn’t to diagnose his symptoms or serve as his therapist, but instead to encourage and support him to take the steps needed to get his health back.

Keep in mind, the stigma around mental illness makes it tough for a man to acknowledge that he might be depressed. Men face a lot of pressure within our society to push through tough times, bear extra weight, and be the support everyone else can lean on.

Be assured that bringing up the subject won’t make things worse. The only way things get worse is when we don’t talk about it and ignore the problems a guy might be dealing with.

It’s never too early or too late to support a guy who may be fighting depression.

Tips for having the initial conversation

Better health starts with a conversation. Though it may be difficult or awkward at first, starting a conversation about depression could actually end up changing his life. Below are some tips to help get a conversation started.

Voice your observations

It may be more productive to start a conversation about specific changes in his mood or behaviour that you noticed, rather than suggesting that he might be depressed.

What you can say:

  • “You seem quite stressed these days. Is anything up?”
  • “You’re looking pretty tired these days.  Is there something wearing you down?”

Be receptive

It’s important to be empathic, open-minded, and non-judgemental in your conversation.  For a lot of guys, it’s hard to open up to another person, so it’s key to let him know that we’re open to whatever he has to say.

What you can say:

  • “Don’t worry, I’m not here to judge you. Let me know what’s on your mind.”
  • “No matter what’s bothering you, I’m all ears.”
  • “I just want you to know that I have your back and am here to support you in whatever way I can.”
  • “The stuff you’re talking about is actually pretty common among men – It’s nothing to be ashamed of.”

Point him toward our website

We’ve gathered a lot of solid tips and resources for men who are battling depression, including a Therapist Directory which could help him find professional support. Pointing a guy that you’re concerned about to our site could be a turning point in his recovery. Show him the site directly or send him a link via text or email. 

What you can say:

  • “I’m not an expert when it comes to this kind of thing, but I know a site that has tips for dealing with stress and depression. It has a lot of practical tips and useful information, dedicated to men and depression.”
  • “I came across a web site that has a bunch of tips for managing stress and creating a healthy lifestyle that you might find useful.”

Encourage him to consult a doctor

Seeing a health professional is a critical step for any man dealing with depressive symptoms. He can start with a visit to a family doctor, who can then refer him to other resources as needed.

See mental health professionals and consult a family doctor for more information.

What you can say:

  • “I hate to see you down like this. You know there is no shame in seeing a doctor. I can give you a ride or come with you if that would make things easier.“
  • “You’ve got nothing to lose by going to get checked out by your doc. Best case, you find out what might be wrong and get a game plan in place to start feeling better.”
  • “Do you have a family doctor? If not, there’s a clinic I know where you could make an appointment.”

Tips for providing ongoing support

Once the conversation about a guy’s health is started, it’s important to be available to support his journey to recovery. Below are some tips to keep in mind to make the most of your support efforts.

Let him know that you are available

Make sure he knows that you want to support him whenever you can. Depending on your relationship, this may involve checking in with him daily, weekly or a couple times a month.

What you can say:

  • “I want you to know that I have your back, you’re not in this alone.”
  • “I want to be there for you. If you need someone to bounce ideas around with, listen to, or talk to, I’m here.”

Be patient

It’s important to have realistic expectations for recovery. Recovering from depression can be a long process and there are going to be ups and downs on the way. Keep an open dialogue and do your best to be patient, reassuring, and honest.

Encourage all efforts toward recovery

Recovery from depression involves more than seeing a doctor or therapist (though that is a critical component).  It also includes other important life changes, like eating better and being more physically active.  Encourage and support even the most modest steps on his road to recovery.  Collectively, they add up to him being closer to better health.

Help with daily tasks or planning

Depression can sap a guy’s energy and motivation to do even the simplest tasks. If you can lend a hand doing household chores or help plan some things for him to do, it can go a long way. As he starts to feel better pull back and allow him the space to retake charge of his life.

Set goals together

Guys tend to be task-oriented and generally respond well to goal setting. Together with him, sort through some of the things going on in his life, set some goals (start with simple ones), and help him start addressing them. 

Don’t take it personally

Remember that depression affects a guy’s mood, and for some that means sometimes being irritable, angry, or negative. Be patient and try not to take this personally. If he knows that he has the support of others and can stick to treatment, he will get better.

Take any references to escaping from life or suicide seriously

Many guys fighting depression will have suicidal thoughts and however serious, joking, or in passing they sound, they need to be addressed. Make sure he speaks to a professional and is honest about how he is feeling.

Next Steps: