When a friend is battling with depression, it can be hard to know what to do. They might act differently or just seem ‘off.’ Or, they may have been diagnosed with depression and are open about needing support. Either way, you might be wondering what you can do to help and how you can be there for your friend.
People experiencing depression may have the following symptoms
- Feeling sad, hopeless, or like they don’t care
- Finding it hard to sleep or hard to get up in the morning
- Appetite or weight changes – the person’s appetite may decrease or it may increase
- Finding it hard to concentrate – this may affect how they get on in school and work
- Suicidal thoughts, urges or attempts
- Feeling angry or irritible
- Feeling anxious
What you can do to help
- Try to be a good listener and encourage your friend to talk. Read our article on being a good listener.
- Encourage your friend to seek help, by going to a doctor or perhaps going to a counsellor. If they are already receiving help, encourage them to keep appointments and be a listening ear if they want to talk about how things are going. If they have not looked for your help, you may want to encourage them to do so. Check out our article on visiting your GP for a mental health problem.
- Let your friend know you are there for them anytime they want to vent. Reassure them that they can say the same things over and over and you will still listen. Concentrate on listening as best as you can, rather than offering opinions or advice, as often people who are feeling depressed can find advice (even well intentioned) overwhelming. Having someone to listen to can be a tremendous help.
- Be open to different forms of communication. It may be tough for your friend to express their deeper feelings face to face, so being open to text messages, email or Facebook (even at crazy hours) could be a great way to keep the communication open and your support solid.
- Do some reading about depression. There are tons of books on it out there as well as a lot of supportive websites. You might find sites such as Aware and Grow helpful.
- Shower them in praise (or at least a nice sprinkle!). People experiencing mental health difficulties often judge themselves harshly and put themselves down – a lot. Make sure they know how much they genuinely knock your socks off.
- Remind them that depression is a health issue and not some personal flaw. Fact. Simple as.
- Offer to help with everyday tasks that need to be done such as housework or paying bills. A person dealing with depression may sometimes find these types of things overwhelming.
- Do things together. Even simple things like a trip to the cinema or a walk can bring their spirits up. Remind them how great it is to have a lovely friend like you.
- If they are drinking a lot of alcohol or taking a lot of drugs, try to encourage them to stop, as excessive use can make depression go from dark to darker.
- Your friend may need to go to a doctor or service to help them with their depression. Sometimes, it can help if a friend or family member goes with them.
- Look after yourself. Taking care of or even helping a person with depression can be extremely draining and difficult. Try to get help from others who can also support your friend through their depression, so that the pressure is not all just on you. Also, make time for de-stressing activities such as exercise and spending time with friends.
I think my friend is suicidal
If you are concerned that your friend is suicidal, don’t hesitate to talk to them about your concerns. It’s perfectable acceptable to ask them directly if they are having suicidal thoughts. By asking you are telling them that it’s OK for them to come to you and talk about it if or when they need.