How to Help Your Friend with Depression
Trying to help a friend, a loved one or family member with depression can be hard. The reason it can be hard is because you can’t quite put yourself in their shoes and therefore you may wonder what exactly is going on in their minds and whether you may end up saying something wrong. You certainly don’t want to worsen their depression with anything you may say and therefore one can’t blame you for being circumspect and cautious. However, the one thing you should certainly not do is to do nothing. After all, this is someone you care for and wish well and so you can’t just walk away from them. So, how can you help a friend or loved one with depression? What can you possibly do to make them feel better and get better? Thankfully, there is a lot that you can do as a friend to help your friend or loved one get through depression. What follows are some tips and advice on what you can do and should not do when trying to help a friend with depression.
Ways You Can Help a Friend With Depression
- One of the most important and easiest things you can do to help a friend with depression is to listen. This is easier said than done though, as most people don’t have the patience to listen and feel obliged to interrupt and state things to the effect that they know what the depressed friend is going through and some such. Doing so would be counterproductive and will probably make your friend shut you off and not share the things that’s troubling them. The right thing to do is to listen, just hear and hear and hear some more. It is quite likely that your depressed friend may have a lot to share and so let them share it all and lighten their hearts by telling you what troubles them. The key is in not being dismissive of their troubles but to express understanding and try and give them patient advice.
- You would help your depressed friend immensely if you don’t expect instant results. While it might be easy for you to say that they should just come out of their depression, it is not as easy for them to do. Depression is an illness and so it is not something they can just push a button and come out of it. It might be difficult for you to understand why not, but know that it is just not that easy for them to do. Understand that and be patient.
- Encourage your friend to seek treatment. They may not be keen or willing on their own to seek treatment, but offer to accompany them and try and persuade them that it is in their best interest to get treatment and take medications if advised by the doctor. If they are reluctant to seek treatment, try a process of persuasion rather than pushing them and compelling them. This may overwhelm them and be counterproductive, so gradual persuasion is the way to go.
- It is likely that your depressed friend is staying indoors, not interacting with you and others, perhaps brooding over things they feel depressed by. Depressed people tend to isolate themselves. Quite obviously, this pattern of behavior is not going to make your friend feel any better. It is therefore important that you do something about this. You can encourage your friend to come out with you, go to the movies perhaps, go out for dinner, any other fun activities, or just go out for a stroll together. Do anything along these lines to help get your friend out of the self-imposed isolation. The less time your friend spends at home, the less time your friend would brood and get depressed.
- If you can reduce the stressors your friend is affected by, you should try and reduce them. For example, if the stress your friend is going through is through a family member, try and talk to them and see if you can make them understand the profound negative impact they are having on your friend. This may or may not help, but it is worth a try. Similarly, any other stressors your friend is facing that you can do something about, you should try and help reduce them, if you can.
- Try to give your friend some perspective, as when one is depressed, you tend to lose a sense of perspective. Make your friend feel wanted and loved, to think of the people in your friend’s life who care and love, who would be devastated if something bad were to happen to your friend.
- Check with your friend and find out if your friend is having suicidal thoughts. If your friend admits to it and especially states a plan on how they plan to commit suicide, stay calm and seek medical attention promptly. Do not be dismissive or take suicidal thoughts with a plan and intent lightly. If possible, be with your friend or have someone be with your friend and watch your friend over and get any materials that may be used to commit suicide away from the room while you wait for an appointment with a medical professional.
In conclusion, while trying to help a depressed friend may be difficult and daunting, it is not certainly impossible. What you need is lots and lots of patience and the willingness to devote meaningful time from your perhaps busy schedule to go see/talk to your friend and help your friend through the depression by following the points mentioned above. If you really care about your friend, then doing so would not be a task and definitely not something you’d regret doing. On the other hand, if you do nothing, then perhaps you’d have lots of regret to carry around, wondering what you could have done. Lastly, while trying to help your friend, do not yourself get emotionally over-invested to the point where you yourself go into depression. That would not help your friend or you.
© 2008 Shil1978