Is your friend suffering from depression? And are you worried about them because neither does their condition seem to get better nor do they seem to be taking care of themselves?
Depression is a severe mental illness. And only in rare cases does someone suffering from depression recover without the help of loved ones or treatment. Even so, this is not the case for the majority of them. So, even if your friend doesn’t ask for your help, they might actually need it.
We understand that you hate seeing them suffer and want to help them in any way you can. Just for you, here are eight ways you can support your friend with depression.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose or treat any condition. The tips shared below are not a substitute for any treatment by professionals.
1. Sit and talk to your friend
Is your friend’s condition bothering you? Is their silence bugging you, but you don’t know how to bring it up and talk about it?
You can start by asking them how they are feeling right now. Express your concern and inform them of the recent changes you’ve noticed. Try having a conversation in a relaxed, acceptive and unbiased environment so they can feel at ease and open up. Allow them to share as much as they want without putting any pressure. And let them take their sweet time to express themselves because it takes a lot of courage and trust to do so. Talking about the most troubling thoughts has a positive medical effect and feels therapeutic (James Pennebaker, 1986). Listen carefully to them, empathise with them, and refrain from offering advice. Even if it appears to be a simple solution, understand that following the advice may be hard for them now. And make them feel as if you are trivialising their feelings.
“I may not understand what you’re feeling, but I know it’s difficult for you, and if you need someone to talk to, I’m always here.” Even if you don’t completely agree with them, validating their feelings like this will remind them that they have a shoulder to lean on. Try not to be disappointed if they don’t open up to you right away; it could be because they don’t want you to worry and they love you as well. Or perhaps they don’t want to hurt you and believe they can handle their depression on their own.
2. You can take them to a professional
“I don’t need any therapy.” Has your friend ever said this?
This is a sign your friend is reluctant to consult a professional for help because they might be ashamed of their condition and wish to overcome it themselves. And if it isn’t the case, they are probably struggling to find someone who can help them? Let them know that seeking help does not make them weak. But, it allows them to reclaim control of their lives. Remind them that depression is not their fault and that they deserve to get help because it seldom gets better without treatment.
Offer to find potential therapists, but be mindful to not force them. Instead, let them decide when they’re ready. If they want to see someone, accompany them to provide your comfort and support. If they express a desire to cancel their appointments or stop therapy in the middle, encourage them to stick with it until the end. Because there is only so much you can do for your friend, involving a professional can assist them in recovering faster and better.
3. You have to be patient
Everyone’s experience with depression is unique, so how they are treated also varies from person to person. Some recover from depression in a few weeks, whereas your friend may require a few months. Because treatment and full recovery may take time, it is critical to be patient with your friend at all times and allow them to recover at their own pace.
Even finding a counsellor who understands your friend’s needs and provides a safe environment for your friend to open up may require some trial and error.
“Just get over it, it’s been months now”. Venting your frustration like this can potentially hurt your friend even more. Instead, be gentle with them because some symptoms might reappear even after successful treatment. Now, you don’t want to unintentionally hurt a friend who is already struggling, do you?
4. You can help them with their basic needs
Is your friend falling behind on their daily responsibilities? Is the laundry not taken out? Or is it unusual to see their snack corner empty?
It can feel overwhelming to keep track of everything for someone dealing with depression. When the household chores pile up, they may not know where to begin. So, if you see anything specific that you can help your friend with, let them know you are willing to assist them. Offer to help them with their daily activities by restocking the groceries or organising their room. If they don’t wish to burden you with all of their responsibilities, encourage them to do so with you and reassure them that they are not burdening you. Cooking a meal together or cleaning the house while listening to their favourite music may help uplift their mood, make them happier, and revive their spirit. Your acts of concern and love for them can assure them that they have a hand to hold if they struggle to walk alone.
5. Tell them how great they are
Your friend suffering from depression may find it difficult to see the bright side of things. They might feel worthless, dwell on their flaws and harshly criticise themselves. Remind them of their positive qualities. Tell them what you admire about them and how much you appreciate having them in your life.
“Just stop blaming yourself and crying over your past.”. “Look on the bright side, you’re being negative for no reason.” Be careful not to say anything like this because it is likely that they are struggling to remain hopeful. Sometimes, a little encouragement is all that is required to restore their faith. A few words of admiration, warmth and reassurance with a sweet blend of love, can make all the difference to them, even if they can’t express it now.
6. Include them in your plans
Has your friend begun to distance themselves from you and the others and stopped doing things they used to enjoy?
If you’re going to the movies with your friends tonight, invite your friend who is depressed. Make an effort to keep them socially engaged by including them in group gatherings. But don’t compel them to do anything. Because they may not want to socialise, extending invitations will remind them that you are pleased to see them. Tell them that you understand their reasons for declining the invitation to the movie and that you will be around until they are ready. This can reassure them that they have not been forgotten and give them a new sense of hope. A reason to be thankful and continue living their lives.
According to a study conducted by Diane Tice, socialising can be effective in battling depression. It helps to divert their attention away from self-deprecating thoughts. So, helping them establish a safety net of people they can rely on will relieve the burden on you to be always there for them and keep them from isolating themselves and worsening their condition.
7. Do your own research on depression
While everyone’s experience with depression is different, being familiar with a few general symptoms and terminology can help you better understand your friend and engage in more in-depth conversations. Being able to differentiate between the myths and facts about depression can aid in tracking their condition. Look out for signs of worsening depression. Did they ever mention attempting suicide? Understanding the risks is also essential for protecting your friend. So, you can take every precaution to ensure they don’t harm themselves.
8. Set limits for your well-being
Although depression is not contagious, the mood of a depressed person is. So, it is likely that you will catch those feelings and feel emotionally drained over time. A November 2011 study found that caregivers of people with depression were more likely to experience psychological distress than caregivers of people with other healthcare needs. This is especially true if the one suffering is your best friend because the closer you are to someone, the greater would be the impact of their well-being on yours. So, setting healthy boundaries for your own well-being becomes all the more essential when your friend is suffering.
Eating your meals on time, engaging in your hobbies for your happiness, and not ignoring your responsibilities are all important. Remember that addressing your needs doesn’t mean that you are neglecting your friend. So, don’t feel guilty for prioritising yourself. Because you will only be able to help your friend if you are both mentally and physically healthy.
Do you have to get your presentation done before your next meeting? Or go for your morning workout? Ask your friend if you can check up on them after you finish your tasks. Set aside time each day just for your friend. And make sure to stick to the time limits. So, you don’t hurt yourself trying to fix them.
You can support someone going through depression. You can reassure them that they are not alone and that they are loved. You can remind them that their illness is nothing to be ashamed of and that they deserve the help. But, if it’s taking a toll on you, it’s best to set healthy boundaries, take care of your well-being and put yourself first. Before you go, we want to remind you that you are a gem of a person for helping them and a true friend indeed.
Truly appreciate you taking some time off your busy schedule to read this article. See you soon with more mental health content. Stay tuned until next time. Goodbye!
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