Take Care of Yourself

Taking care of yourself is the first and most important step in being an empathic and resilient supporter

Depression impacts all aspects of a man’s life – how he thinks, behaves, and interacts with others. This can be hard to understand and accept, potentially leaving us feeling frustrated, angry, guilty, or sad. If we don’t pay attention to and address these feelings, they can wear us down and, in turn, impact the support we are able to provide.  

It’s important to make sure that our efforts to support someone who is struggling with depression don’t compromise our own health.

Tips for Supporters

Be realistic

While it is natural to want to help solve the problems of someone close to us, remember that depression is a complex illness that we alone, as supporters, can’t solve for someone else. Overcoming depression requires the committed effort of the individual himself, along with his support system – which, whenever possible, should include professional support.

Be patient

Depression isn’t something that anyone can simply “fix” overnight. The road to recovery is a long one, often filled with bumps along the way. Patience and persistence are required for this journey (for both the man going through it and his support system).

Check in on yourself

When supporting a man dealing with depression, try to remain conscious of your own feelings before, throughout, and after the process. Check in on yourself – what you’re thinking, how you’re feeling, and how you’re keeping up with your own priorities. Do you find yourself…

  • Feeling stressed, anxious, angry, powerless, exhausted, or detached?
  • Experiencing trouble sleeping, maintaining appetite, and/or maintaining focus?
  • Losing compassion or empathy for who you’re supporting?
  • Experiencing self-doubt or negative self-worth in relation to your ability to support him?

Know that these kinds of feelings are common and it’s OK to get frustrated or disheartened while supporting a person who is battling depression. 

Understand that these feelings can be a signal that your support may be impacting you negatively and possibly resulting in burnout or compassion fatigue.[1] Also, such feelings can often give us insight to what the other person is feeling himself.

Set boundaries

Taking on too much responsibility and pressure in support of another person can quickly get overwhelming. If you need a break, be honest and work toward more sustainable levels of support. 

Setting boundaries is not only crucial for a supporter’s wellbeing, but also for ensuring mutual understanding, accountability, and responsibility in your relationship with the man who is struggling.[2, 3]

Here are some examples of different types of boundaries that may be helpful to clarify.

On your time and energy

What you can say:

  • “I want you to know I’m here for you, but I have a lot going on lately and need to focus some time on my own mental health too. Let’s keep talking, but maybe we can do so twice a week rather than every day.”
  • “Hey man, just wanted to let you know that, lately, I’ve been turning my phone off at 11pm so I can sleep. I won’t get notifications past then, but you can add this crisis line number to your phone in case you’re having a rough night.”
  • “The past few times we’ve spoken, I’ve felt like you’ve been taking your anger out on me. I know that you’ve been dealing with a lot of stress and I want to help, but it’s hard for me to be there for you when I feel like I’m being bashed about.”

Around conflicts of interest

Sometimes we want to help, but aren’t the best person to do so because of potential conflicts of interest.

What you can say:

  • “I wish I could help you out with all the stress around your girlfriend, but since I’m also close with her, I feel uncomfortable being in the middle. Do you think you could get some advice from Joe instead?”

On the type of and amount of support you can offer

Remind yourself that there is a limit to the support you can offer, and that you can’t be expected to fill the role of a health professional. 

Supporting a man with depression can be a difficult and complex role – this is why we have professional supporters (mental health professionals) who possess years of training and experience.

What you can say:

  • “I know things have been getting a lot worse, but I don’t know enough about depression to help as much as I want to. I think it’d be best to talk to a doctor or therapist.”
  • “I don’t want to give any bad advice on […] because I’ve never dealt with it myself, and I don’t know the best way to manage it. I think this is where a therapist could really help to get a better understanding what’s going on and help you develop more actionable steps to get better.”
  • “Some of the stuff we’ve been talking about is triggering me around similar experiences I had in the past, so it’s hard for me to talk about this kind of thing without getting really upset afterwards. I think it would be best for us to find a therapist you could talk to.”

While your support is likely a valued and substantial part of his recovery journey, it’s not  professional help and thus, you are not a substitute for him having professional support. 

Solidify your own mental health

Whether your support for a guy is taking a toll on you or not, self-care is helpful to keep yourself in a good head-space. Self-care doesn’t have to be complicated; simple, easy habits can help you refresh your mind, relieve stress or negative emotions, and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Implementing better self-care can include:

  • Setting aside time to recharge and decompress after an interaction in which you were offering support (particularly if it was emotionally draining)
  • Prioritizing time for your own hobbies 
  • Finding a creative outlet (art, cooking, building)
  • Getting outside. Go for a hike, a walk, sit outside, etc.
  • Prioritizing daily physical activity (workout, go for a run, play a sport)
  • Trying out stress reduction techniques (mindfulness, meditation, yoga, journalling)
  • Ensuring you’re getting adequate sleep and nutrition
  • Engaging in or creating social connections beyond the guy you’re supporting
  • Making sure that you and the man you’re supporting continue to do fun and light things together [4-7]

This will not only help ensure that you put your best foot forward when helping someone, but that your prolonged support for him will not end up slowly chipping away at you.

Consider seeking support for yourself

It can be a grind helping someone with depression tackle such a tough illness. If you find that the self-care tips aren’t quite enough, getting some support for ourselves can help keep us buoyed. If you feel like you need a boost, reach out to friends and family, talk to a therapist, or try attending a support group for people in similar situations (which are becoming more common nowadays).

Remember that there is nothing selfish about prioritising your own wellbeing; taking care of yourself is the first and most important step in being an empathetic and resilient supporter.


  1. DuBois, A. L., & Mistretta, M. A. (2020). Compassion Fatigue: Sick, Tired, and Depleted. In Overcoming Burnout and Compassion Fatigue in Schools (1st ed., pp. 59–76). Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781351030021-5
  2. Peisley, T. (2016). Boundary-Setting and Mental Illness. SANE. https://www.sane.org/information-and-resources/the-sane-blog/caring-for-others/boundary-setting-and-mental-illness
  3. Kiefer, D. (2020). Setting Boundaries with a Person with Depression. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/depression/setting-boundaries#The-Takeaway 
  4. Slatten, L. A., David Carson, K., & Carson, P. P. (2011). Compassion fatigue and burnout: what managers should know. The Health Care Manager, 30(4), 325–333. https://doi.org/10.1097/HCM.0b013e31823511f7
  5. Mayo Clinic Staff. (2021). Stress relievers: Tips to tame stress. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress-relievers/art-20047257
  6. Mind. (2020). Supporting Someone who Feels Suicidal. Mind For Better Mental Health. https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/helping-someone-else/supporting-someone-who-feels-suicidal/supporting-yourself/
  7. mindyourmind. (n.d.). Self Care While Helping a Friend. mindyourmind. ​​https://mindyourmind.ca/help/self-care-while-helping-friend