[Skip to Content]

When Depression Is Severe

Reviewed by: D'Arcy Lyness, PhD

Depression is a health condition. People feel sad, discouraged, or hopeless for weeks, months, even years. For people with depression, it can seem like things will never get better. When depression is treated, things can start to look brighter and more manageable again.

But severe depression can cloud a person's thinking. This can make it harder to reach out for help. Severe depression may lead some people to think that life isn't worth living. Sometimes feelings of hopelessness are so deep that a person considers suicide.

People who are extremely depressed and may be thinking about hurting themselves need help as soon as possible. When depression is this severe, it is a medical emergency.

What to Do

If this is you, tell someone how you feel. Ask an adult for help. Visit a suicide help site, like the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. You can call 1-800-273-8255, or call or text 988. Reach out for the help you deserve.

Suicide lifelines or crisis centers are there to help you figure out how to work through tough situations and feelings. They are staffed by trained professionals who can help you without ever knowing your name or seeing your face. Most national helplines are staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. All calls are confidential — no one you know will find out that you've called.

If you feel suicidal, you can also call 911 or go to the emergency room. Mental health crises are just as much of an emergency as physical health crises.

Helping a Friend

Severe depression can block a person's view of a better future. Someone who is depressed might not see what’s going on. Friends or family are often the ones who notice how serious things are.

It's important to support and care for a friend who is very depressed. But you probably can't make your friend's depression or suicidal feelings go away. Depression can be so strong that it blocks your friend's ability to see reason.

The Road to Recovery

Depression can get better with the right attention and care. A psychologist, psychiatrist, or other therapist can evaluate and diagnose depression and create a plan to treat it.

If you're feeling depressed but it's not an emergency, you should still talk to your doctor, school counselor, nurse, or another trusted adult. If the first person you talk to isn't much help, try another adult until you find someone who understands. With serious depression, it's essential to get help.

If a friend who's severely depressed made you promise not to tell anyone what's going on, the best way to help is by breaking that promise. Severe depression is a situation where telling can save a life. The most important thing a depressed person can do is to get help.

If you (or a friend) feel unsafe or out of control, get help now. Tell a trusted adult, call 911, or go to the emergency room.

Reviewed by: D'Arcy Lyness, PhD
Date reviewed: August 2016