When you are depressed, unsupportive friends and family can prove trying. It is very important to have people in your life who either understand your condition or are willing to try. And, if friends and family are unsupportive—blaming you for the symptoms of your illness or making thoughtless remarks—it can make you feel really discouraged. What can you do if the people who should be your greatest supporters aren’t?
Lack of support from people in your social network can be tough, but there are things that you can do to find the support and understanding that you need.
Realize That Not Everyone Understands
Acknowledge that there may be a reason behind their feelings that has nothing to do with you. There are lots of reasons that a person may not be able to understand a condition like depression. Perhaps they grew up in an environment where they were taught that it was unacceptable to show vulnerability. Or perhaps their thoughts are influenced by the persisting and problematic stigma surrounding mental illness.
Their behavior towards you may be deeply ingrained and automatic and have nothing to do with you as a person.
Sometimes unsupportive family and friends just need education about your depression so they can better understand what you are going through. There are numerous resources to educate family from sites such as NAMI and Mental Health America or local family education programs like NAMI’s excellent “Family to Family” program.
Don’t let mental health stigma prevent you from getting the help and support that you need. Talk to your doctor if you have symptoms of depression.
Be Good to Yourself
Be your own greatest supporter.Practice being kind and gentle with yourself. Keep your self-talk positive. Negativity only feeds your depression.
If you find yourself getting trapped in a negative thought cycle or ruminating over things that have gone wrong, look for ways to turn those thoughts around or interrupt the cycle. Finding ways to distract yourself can help as well.
Don’t Fall for Depression Myths
Don’t buy into their misconceptions about depression. Depression is not a sign of weakness or laziness. It is a biologically-based illness, most likely caused by imbalances in important mood-regulating chemicals in your brain. You are not attention-seeking when you ask for help. You are simply trying the best way you can to hang on until you can get well. No matter what someone else says to you, don’t let yourself lose sight of these facts.
Know That Other People May Be Struggling
Accept that some people may be sympathetic to your situation, but are simply unable to actively support you. A prime example of this situation would be a friend who is dealing with their own depression and simply isn’t able to give anything to other people.
People might not be able to offer their support when they are struggling to cope with their own problems or feelings. It’s not that they don’t care about you; they just don’t have the internal resources at this time to do more than take care of themselves.
Find Support Elsewhere
When close friends and family can’t offer you what you need, it can be helpful to seek out people who can. Depression support groups, either in person or online, can be a great place to look. Although people in support groups may start out as strangers to you, fast friendships are often formed because you share the common experience of depression.
If you or a loved one are struggling with depression, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.
For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.
Be Direct When You Ask for Help
Don’t be afraid to ask for what you really need. There may be some cases where people are perfectly willing to support and assist you if they realized what you needed. Perhaps they don’t realize how badly you are doing because they are accustomed to you being the strong one. Or it’s never occurred to them that you might appreciate it if they offered to babysit your kids for a few hours.
It would be great if people could read our minds but, the fact is, they can’t. Sometimes we have to speak up.
End Negative Relationships
Cut negative people out of your life or find ways to mitigate the damage. There are going to be some people, who, no matter what you do, will be mean-spirited and hurtful. If you can, cut them out of your life. If you can’t, find ways to either limit your contact with them or bolster yourself against their insensitive treatment.
For example, if Aunt Tracy always has some kind of biting remark to make at family gatherings, form an alliance with your cousins to talk about and vent your frustrations.
There is nothing wrong with minimizing contact with people who have a negative impact on your well-being or with completely cutting truly toxic people out of your life.
Harness Your Emotions for Good
Use your anger with the other person to your benefit. Instead of turning your anger at the other person inward and beating yourself up for your failings, channel this anger into doing something positive.
Go out and get some exercise; break a few pieces of ceramic tile and construct a beautiful mosaic; or, give your house a thorough cleaning. Find something physical to do that will release your pent-up feelings. You’ll have an outlet for your anger and do something good for yourself at the same time.
A Word From Verywell
Feeling a lack of support from your friends and family can make coping with feelings of depression that much more difficult. There are things that you can do, including being direct when you ask for help, but sometimes the best thing you can do is seek support from people who do understand what you are going through. If the people in your life are not giving you the love and support you need, try expanding your social support system whether it means seeking help from a mental health professional or joining an online or in-person support group.