What do you do when a loved one refuses to seek help for depression? - Christian Family Solutions

What do you do when a loved one refuses to seek help for depression?


By Shem Biebert, LPC-IT, SAC-IT, School Based Therapist and Student Support Coordinator, Christian Family Solutions


This is a very important question and one that might be asked with some strong emotions, even frustration. I have had to wrestle with this topic in my personal life as well. I drew on my own experience with loved ones as I wrote this.

I think it’s important to take a step back here and realize that there are different levels of intensity to depression (how it impacts one’s daily life) and different levels of risk, too. Let’s start here because any safety risks would impact what your next steps are and how much leeway you give your loved one to decide if he or she wants help.

If your loved one is at risk of hurting themselves or others, immediate steps should be taken to ensure safety.

  • If they are having thoughts of wanting to kill themselves and have some intention of acting on that thought, and even a possible plan, connect them right away to necessary help and safety.
  • Some options for immediate help:
    • Call the suicide prevention hotline (800-273-8255 or “988”)
    • Take them to a mental health hospital
    • Call police (and request a team with a mental health professional or crisis trained officer if possible).
  • Safety is always priority number one. Though difficult, the above steps must be done, even if against the person’s wishes or preferences.


If there are no immediate safety concerns or risk, you have a number of options and strategies.

My first bit of advice (from personal experience) is to truly take time aside to listen deeply to your loved one, including their concerns and reasons for not wanting to seek help. Odds are, he or she probably has a very solid reason for not getting formal help. It could be a financial barrier, concerns of what other people will think, or more. Listening is powerful, and not listening is also powerful. When we fail to listen fully and or humbly seek to understand, our loved one might become more frustrated and possibly even want to carry out their plans even more.

Once you’ve listened well, try sharing back to them a summary what their concerns and reasons are, just to make sure you’ve got it right.

Then, discuss some alternative options for help. Maybe this loved one is comfortable with visiting their Pastor (or a pastor in the area). Maybe they would they be willing to talk further with another a mutual friend who is more knowledgeable or experienced in the mental health world? Meet the loved one where they are and suggest someone he or she would trust. Some help is better than no help. If they find that talking with one of these people isn’t working, you may have the evidence you need to recommend that they refer to a mental health professional.

Sometimes activity works when talking does not. Sleep, nutrition, exercise, and socializing are wellness activities that are important for both you and your loved one. Find trusted, safe people to be around and socialize with. After all, we know the benefits of having a close-knit faith community or support system (Hebrews 10:25; Proverbs 13:20, 27:17, 27:9).

Patience is a key ingredient here. It can be easy to get frustrated, upset, or extremely worried about your loved one. Taking care of your own wellness and health is a priority so you can support this person in a healthy way. One way to take care of yourself and others is to lift them up in prayer. Pray for healing, peace, joy, and safety from self-harm. Pray for the Holy Spirit to work in the heart of your loved one create an openness to formal help. God our Father answers prayer.


These answers aren’t comprehensive … They are a start. If you or someone you know needs counseling please call Christian Family Solutions Counseling Care & Services at 800-438-1772.

If you are experiencing a health emergency of any kind, please dial 911.

If you are having suicidal thoughts or know someone who is, call or text the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988.

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