How Can I Help an Adult Child With Major Depression?

Approximately 14.8 million American adults suffer from depression, according to the National Institutes of Health. Sometimes the condition is temporary. The mother of a newborn, for example, may have short-term post-partum depression. But depression can be severe and persistent. It can sap the energy of not only the person who's depressed, but also those who love him. In extreme cases, suicide can be the outcome. Fortunately, a loved one can emerge from depression, looking forward to the rest of his life. If you are the parent of an adult child who is depressed, you can help your loved one recover.

Thoughtful young man looking into the distance. Credit: John Lund/Marc Romanelli/Blend Images/Getty Images

Step 1

Listen to your child and offer your support. He is probably aware that he is depressed but also feeling isolated. Let him know that you care and encourage him to talk about his feelings. By letting him know that you're there to support him, he may become more willing to seek professional help.

Step 2

If you see that your adult child is severely depressed, don't wait for him to make an appointment with a therapist or counselor. He may be so depressed, he thinks seeing a professional will make no difference. Find a therapist or counselor yourself. Make the appointment and show up at your son's door to drive him there. If your child starts talking about suicide or exhibits any warning signs, such as giving possessions to close friends, take immediate action, even if it means going against your child's wishes. Call 9-1-1.

Step 3

Learn all you can about depression, and if necessary, seek counseling yourself to get insight and advice and also to stay healthy and optimistic yourself. A professional may have ideas to help your child that you wouldn't have thought of yourself. Also, a depressed child can cause a parent much anxiety, guilt and frustration. It's important that you take care of yourself while you are trying to take care of your child.

Step 4

Help your child with everyday tasks. If your grown daughter is going through post-partum depression, drive to her home as often as possible to help with cooking, child care, laundry and other household tasks. Your grown daughter may well appreciate your company, as well as your help. If you see that your daughter would benefit from getting out, offer to babysit. Encourage your child to get out and exercise every day by showing up for an afternoon walk. If you live too far from your grown child to be there, arrange for daily help or babysitting.

Step 5

Encourage you grown child to participate. If you're working on a project, ask your son to help. If you're taking yoga or an exercise class, sign up your child, as well. When you make an appointment at the beauty salon, make an appointment for your daughter immediately following or preceding your appointment, and go together. Take her out for lunch or dinner afterward. Getting out of the house may be the last thing that your child wants to do, but that is exactly what he needs. Be prepared to be turned down a few times, but don't let initial failure discourage you. Stop by to see how your child is doing even when he does not want to go anywhere.

Things You'll Need

  • List of mental health professionals in your child’s area

  • Books and brochures about depression

  • List of domestic workers in your child’s area


You may not see any progress for a while, and even when you do, your child may not appreciate your efforts. This is why it is essential for your own well-being that you don’t neglect yourself. Take some time off from your supporting role and ask someone else to step in. See your friends, take up a new hobby. Recharge your batteries. You will be able to help your child much more after you have done this.


Acknowledge that depression is an illness. Your child cannot "snap out of it." Do not offer such advice.

Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
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