When Depression Is Severe

Depression is a health condition that involves a sad, discouraged, or despairing mood and negative thinking. Sometimes people with depression have physical symptoms too. For example, they may feel low in energy, have headaches, or sleep more (or less) than usual.

When someone has 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 clouded thinking can sometimes make it harder to reach out for help. Severe depression can lead some people to think that life isn't worth living. Sometimes depression is so severe, and feelings of hopelessness are so deep, that a person considers suicide.

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

What to Do

If this is you, tell someone how you feel. Ask an adult for help. Call a suicide hotline, like the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Reach out for the help you deserve.

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

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 obscure a person's view of a better future. Friends or family often notice and realize how serious things are when the person who is depressed isn't able to see what's going on.

It's important to be supportive, but trying to cheer up a friend or reasoning with him or her probably won't work to help depression or suicidal feelings go away. Depression can be so strong that it outweighs someone's ability to respond to reason.

The Road to Recovery

Depression, even if it's very severe, 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 hopeless 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 you're trying to help a friend who has asked you to promise not to tell, you're helping more 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: December 2011

Kids Health

Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

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