Talking Depression: Building your support network while coping with depression

Building your support network while coping with depression

If you’re living with depression, socialising may seem like the last thing you want to do, but isolation can form a vicious cycle. The more you avoid interacting with others, the worse you are likely to feel and the more likely you are to continue withdrawing from life.1

Depression is an individual experience but that doesn’t mean you need to face it alone. Many factors contribute to recovery, including having a good support system of people that you respect and trust.

In addition to emotional and practical support, some of the benefits of having a support system when living with depression include:

  • Improved self-esteem. Positive reinforcement and encouragement from your support system can boost your self-esteem and self-worth. They can remind you of your strengths and accomplishments, which can be difficult to recognise during depressive episodes.
  • Accountability. A support system can hold you accountable for self-care and treatment. They can remind you to take medications, attend therapy sessions, and engage in healthy habits that contribute to your wellbeing. If you’d like someone to help you prepare for your appointments, learn more about how they can help you here.
  • Providing perspective. Supportive friends and family members can offer an outside perspective on your situation. They can help you challenge negative thought patterns and provide alternative viewpoints.

You don’t need a huge network of friends and family, but having a handful of trusted people in your life can make a big difference to your wellbeing by helping you to manage everyday challenges, make difficult decisions, or even by supporting you during a crisis. They can be family members, friends , neighbours or peers — what’s important is that you have people you feel comfortable talking to.

To help build and strengthen your support network, keep the following in mind:2

  • Consider your inner circle. You may not have someone you can confide in about everything - look to different relationships for different kinds of support. Remember to be gentle with yourself at this time and avoid critical people, look to people who have shown they can be sympathetic and non-judgemental instead. Draw on the caring, helpful people in your life who make it easy for you to be yourself.
  • Use technology. Use email, text messages, or video calls to connect with those who are far away. Digital connections alone won’t fulfil your support needs but it’s a good way to keep in touch with your support network.
  • Search for peer support. If you are dealing with personal challenges, consider joining a peer support group to help manage your mental well-being and connect with people going through similar experiences. Your experience of depression will differ from others, but you might find it useful to connect with people who are likely to understand what you’re going through. Many patient organisations provide peer support and patient advocacy groups can help you to find advice from like-minded people who can relate to your experience. The Global Alliance of Mental Illness Advocacy Networks-Europe is a good place to start (GAMIAN).
  • Staying engaged. Try to include people in your life and seek opportunities to stay engaged in the lives of others. Consider joining or increasing your involvement in groups formed around activities you enjoy. Volunteering or enrolling in a class are other ways to socialise, interact, and build meaningful relationships.

If you care for someone living with depression, remember to take good care of yourself too.

  • Take time for yourself – conversations can be difficult and bring up a lot of emotions so don’t feel guilty if you need to take a break.
  • It’s important that you also have a support network to lean on and other people to talk to.
  • Don’t feel that it’s your sole responsibility to help your loved one get better. Remind yourself that you are not a trained professional and just listening and being present for them can be a huge help.

Available supports

There are multiple resources available online and even free support lines.

  • The Support Line from Aware is available 7 days a week from 10am to 10pm, visit here for more information or freephone 1800 80 48 48.
  • The Samaritans are available 24 hours a day, visit here for more information or freephone 116 123.

In an emergency, get help immediately by calling the emergency services on 112 or 999 or your local mental unit or hospital.

If you would like additional support, you can find more resources on the EUFAMI website:

You may be interested in

Understanding your journey through depression
Diagnosing depression and preparing for appointments
Treatment Options for Depression
  1. Michigan Medicine Depression Center. Support Systems Fact Sheet. Available at: Accessed: January 2024.
  2. American Psychological Association. Manage stress: Strengthen your support network. 2019. Available at: Accessed: January 2024.
  3. HSE. Get urgent help for a mental health issue. Available at: Accessed: January 2024.