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my little sister has just been diagnosed with depression and I have no idea what to do

hi, I guess, I'm not sure how I should start this but here goes.

I'm 16, almost 17 and I have this great younger sister who's a year and a half younger than me, she's 15 right now. she's had anxiety in the past and I've helped her through anxiety attacks, but she'd been doing really well at the moment, I thought. She seemed so happy at school, she rows and loves it. she's got a little fun crew of friends that she loves and my whole family felt really good that she was ok. I'm in VCE this year, so my mum was happy that she could focus on my stress at the moment because my sister was doing so well.


Recently though, she had an almost falling out with some friends, it was no big deal and it was nothing and they're all good now, but she asked tp go see her psychologist again. anyway, she went, and I actually had forgotten it was today, but after my maths tutor left, my sister was running the dogs with dad and mum told me that my sister's psychologist told dad she has depression. Mum said the psychologist had told dad some stuff that my sister said that upset her too much to tell me. none of us had any idea, we thought she was not just fine but really good. Mum and I both cried. mum's so scared. I don't know how we managed to miss it so much. I understand that she hid it from mum and dad and that she didn't want them to worry, but I'm her big sister. She's my best friend and I should've known. I should've realised something was wrong. I didn't. I let her down.


I know she doesn't want to tell me about it but I just don't know what to say to her. I feel like she's isolating herself from the whole family, but she will do stuff with mum and dad to make them feel better. I just want to fix everything for her but I know I can't and I hate that. what can I say to her so she knows that I love her and that I care about her so so much? 

Re: my little sister has just been diagnosed with depression and I have no idea what to do

Hi @bigsister.

Firstly, you sound like an absolutely amazing sister. 


Depression is... complicated and hard to describe.

It can make you think things that aren't true, and feel things that don't seem to make sense.

For some people, it can make them feel like no one really cares about them, or like they aren't worth being cared about, even though it's not true.

Or it can make someone feel like their problems are a burden that they want to protect the people they love from.

There are a whole heap of reasons why someone might hide their depression from the people they love, and who love them. 


People with depression can become way to good at hiding our feelings. I used to spend ages in front of the mirror, practicing fake smiles and ways to hide that I'd been crying. No one noticed I was depressed at first because of how well I was hiding it, not because they didn't care enough.  

You did not let her down by not knowing.

Unless you can read minds, how would you have known?


Let her know that you're willing to help her (in whatever way you can, you need to care for yourself as well).  I'd suggest not trying to force anything. If she feels like you're trying to make her confide in you, or like you're trying to push a solution on her, it might just make her retreat even more. 

You might have more success just letting her know that the option is open, and remind her that if she needs anything then she can come to you.

As for telling her how much you care, make your words honest rather than beautiful. You could even say just what you've said here, that you love and care for her so, so much. Sometimes it's easy to get so caught up with how to say something that it hides what you're trying to say. 

Your words won't have to be perfect for her to understand. 

Re: my little sister has just been diagnosed with depression and I have no idea what to do

Hi @bigsister! Welcome to the forums!

That situation is really tough. Smiley Sad I have gone through similar things with my family members who also have depression and other mental health issues and I have also had depression myself. It can be really hard when it comes out of the blue, especially when you think they haven't been having any symptoms recently. Sometimes people can act as if they are happy when they really aren't. They can also be very good at hiding signs of a mental health issue. We shouldn't blame ourselves for not seeing the signs. Remember, we can't read people's minds. If we dwell on these things and get overwhelmed by our feelings ourselves, we won't be able to support our family members as much.

It can also be really hard to understand why family members don't confide in you or why they have these kinds of thoughts. Perhaps she didn't want the stress of her situation affecting your VCE, or wasn't sure what to do about it.

I think it's a good idea to talk to her and say, 'I'm here for you if you need me. I will always care about you and love you.' If you don't feel like talking to her, you could write a note. I feel like if someone had said that to me when I was depressed, it would have made me feel supported. This article is about when your parent has a mental health issue but it has some good advice for talking to a family member with a mental health issue. Another way to support her is to come with her to her psychologist appointments, with her permission. You don't have to listen in on the session but you can meet up with her afterwards. Maybe you can both do an enjoyable activity afterwards, such as going shopping or getting something to eat. One of my family members and I like to share self-help resources, such as apps, techniques and other resources. You can find a lot of these on the ReachOut website, such as in the 'Tools and apps' section.

Make sure you also do some self care and look after yourself. Supporting a family member can be really tough and take a toll on your emotions. This might be a helpful article. Heart

Re: my little sister has just been diagnosed with depression and I have no idea what to do

Beautiful support from @WheresMySquishy and @Tiny_leaf Heart


How are you going @bigsister - did you want to update us on how things have been this week? 

Was any of the above helpful for you? 
Were here to keep listening if you need Heart

I'm leaving ReachOut on the 5th of June Smiley Sad Say goodbye here

Re: my little sister has just been diagnosed with depression and I have no idea what to do

I am an older brother to a little sister and brother
I understand what you might be going through
I am going through a similar thing with my siblings as we are going through stuff as a family
The best thing you can do is just be their for her
And help her out and giver her encouragement as best you can
Hope all is well at the moment for you and your family
Going through depression can be hard for all the friends and family of the person who is feeling it
Hope everything is going well for you at the moment
Talk to us whenever you need

Re: my little sister has just been diagnosed with depression and I have no idea what to do

Hey! Wow, your post resonated with me so much. I sometimes struggle with my mental health, and my sister does too. Recently my sister told me she has an eating disorder. When you say in your post that you felt you shouldn't have missed it, that really hit home for me. I felt the exact same way when my sister told me about her diagnosis. I had all these guilty feelings like "Why didn't I pick up on this? I'm a bad sister because I didn't realise". I actually went to see a psychologist about it at uni. She was really helpful and the best tips she gave me were these:
1. It's not your fault that you didn't realise what was going on with your little sister. People have all sorts of ways of hiding their struggles, and the important thing is you know now and can support her.
2. As much as you want to fix your sister's problems, you can't. I know that completely sucks and it is definitely my instinct as a big sister to want to make everything okay for my lil sis, but there is no way for you to do this. My psych told me to ask my sister "What do you want to do about it?". This actually empowers your sister to find solutions that will help her, rather feel that someone is kind of taking over or not listening to her.
3. Show your sister you love her by doing things you both enjoy, or just being with her. Sometimes I just go visit my sister and we sit in her room and watch YouTube videos together. If she wants to talk about what's going on I listen with an open heart and I try not to judge her. Sometimes I'm not a good listener and that's okay too, you can only be human, not a superhero.
4. It's still okay to laugh and have a joke. Sometimes humour is really powerful.

What's something that you and your sister like doing together?

“Your now is not your forever."
― John Green, Turtles All the Way Down

Re: my little sister has just been diagnosed with depression and I have no idea what to do

hi everyone,

it's been almost a year I think since I posted this and just want to thank everyone for their kind and super helpful replies. honestly for about 6 months after I posted that, things were really hard for my sister and for my family to try to help her. we spent a lot of time together, in our school holidays I would organise stuff for us to do and as she talked me openly about it she said it really helped. also got some great advice from my school counsellor which was good too.


my sister started going to a fantastic psychiatrist, she was put on an antidepressant (first one didn't work but the second one did) and she actually go diagnosed with ADD as well (which apparently is often the case for a person with other mental illness but I'm definitely not an expert). She's on ADD medication too now and I'm happy to report that I feel like I've got my sister back. she's doing really well. 2019 was a hard year for my family but her strength overcoming all of this has really taught me that she will really be ok, and I'm so proud of her.


I hope that I have no use for this forum for a long time and thank you everyone again. those early weeks were tough but it helped a lot feeling less alone. 


sending love and thanks from me and my family Smiley Happy

Re: my little sister has just been diagnosed with depression and I have no idea what to do

Hey @bigsister ,


Thanks for sharing the wonderful news Heart.  However you are welcome here any time .  If we don't hear from you all the absolute best with everything Smiley Happy

Re: my little sister has just been diagnosed with depression and I have no idea what to do

@bigsister That is amazing Heart Happy to hear the good news Smiley Happy

Re: my little sister has just been diagnosed with depression and I have no idea what to do

@bigsister  Thanks so much for updating us!
I'm so glad that your sister is doing a lot better now. You sound like an amazing support and she's lucky to have you. Smiley Happy