How to Support A Friend with Depression?

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It can be a challenge to help people with depression. If someone in your life suffers from depression, you may feel helpless and wonder what to do. A wrong way to start the conversation is to pay attention to each other's emotions vaguely, which sounds like an accusation, such as: “You have been feeling down recently. What happened?”, or “Are you okay?”

      

  

           

Sometimes, the wrong language hurts them more than you think. Learning how to provide support and understanding is very important because not everyone knows the correct ways to support a depressed friend. The following are some basic recommendations.

        

Learning depression

         

You can avoid mistakes and misunderstandings by educating yourself about depression. Once you understand the symptoms, process, and consequences of depression, you can be able to better support your friends.

     

         

      

Typical symptoms of depression include mental and physical aspects.

     

  • Feelings of sadness, hopelessness.
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in most or all normal activities, such as hobbies or sports.
  • Tiredness and lack of energy, so even small tasks take extra effort.
  • Frequent or recurrent mention of death, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts, or suicide.
  • Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches.

      

Not everyone experiences depression in the same way, and their symptoms can be different. Children and teens may show depression by being irritable or cranky rather than sad.

          

Express your concern

           

“When you’re depressed, you don’t believe that you’re worthy of love,” said Dr. DePaulo, one of the world’s foremost authorities on depression. Telling your friends that you care about them can be a great support for them.

   

     

    

Firstly, be there for them. The best thing you can do for your friends is to tell them how important they are to you. When she/he wants to speak, listen carefully. Just listening and understanding can become a powerful tool for treatment.

       

Secondly, help them find the appropriate support. Patients may be ashamed about their depression and mistakenly believe that they should be able to overcome it with willpower. However, depression rarely improves without treatment, and it may get worse. Express your willingness to help by setting up appointments and going along with them.

          

Things that should not be done 

          

Sometimes, you may say something that is not suitable for people with depression. When you face a friend suffering from depression, you should avoid the following points.

             

    

Firstly, please do not judge them. Statements such as “I think this is really all just in your head. If you got up out of bed and moved around, you would see things better”, or “Come on, stop being so down”, are not helpful. These words suggest that depression is the choice of your friends. They will feel guilty and ashamed. But suffering from depression is not their fault, nor their choices either. 

          

Secondly, please do not give advice. Unless you are a mental health professional, it is better to avoid giving advice that suggests specific ways a friend should change thoughts or behavior. It is not your job to advise patient, because you may not be qualified. Be patient and listen to them.

             

Thirdly, please do not minimize their pain and make comparisons. It is impossible for people who have never been through depression to understand what depression is. Statements such as “Why do you let every little thing bother you”, or “I was depressed too” can minimize their feelings. Depression is a real disease, not only a bad feeling.

            

Take care of yourself

         

         

       

It is not easy to support a friend suffering from depression. Sometimes you feel sad and desperate because of their behavior. But if you are burned out or frustrated, you will not help your friends much. Find your own time for hobbies, physical activities, and friends.

             

Treatments can improve the symptoms of depression, but it takes time. Your support is very important during the course. The support of friends actually plays an important role in the treatment of depression. Depression is no one’s fault, but if you be there for them, your friends will become better.

   

 

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4 Answers

These messages are for mutual support and information sharing only. Always consult your doctor before trying anything you read here.
1. Listen to them

Let your friend know you’re there for them. You can start the conversation by sharing your concerns and asking a specific question. For example, you might say, “It seems like you’ve been having a hard time lately. What’s on your mind?”

Keep in mind that your friend may want to talk about what they feel, but they might not want advice.

Engage with your friend by using active listening techniques:

Ask questions to get more information instead of assuming you understand what they mean.

Validate their feelings. You might say, “That sounds really difficult. I’m sorry to hear that.”

Show empathy and interest with your body language.

Your friend may not feel like talking the first time you ask, so it can help to continue telling them you care.

Keep asking open questions (without being pushy) and expressing your concern. Try to have conversations in person whenever possible. If you live in different areas, try video chatting.

2. Help them find support

Your friend may not be aware they’re dealing with depression, or they may be unsure how to reach out for support.

Even if they know therapy could help, it can be daunting to search for a therapist and make an appointment.

If your friend seems interested in counseling, offer to help them review potential therapists. You can help your friend list things to ask potential therapists and things they want to mention in their first session.

Encouraging them and supporting them to make that first appointment can be so helpful if they’re struggling.

3. Support them in continuing therapy

On a bad day, your friend might not feel like leaving the house. Depression can zap energy and increase the desire to self-isolate.

If they say something like, “I think I’m going to cancel my therapy appointment,” encourage them to stick with it.

You might say, “Last week you said your session was really productive and you felt a lot better afterward. What if today’s session helps, too?”

The same goes for medication. If your friend wants to stop taking medication because of unpleasant side effects, be supportive, but encourage them to talk to their psychiatrist about switching to a different antidepressant or getting off medication entirely.

Abruptly stopping antidepressants without the supervision of a healthcare provider can have serious consequences.

4. Take care of yourself

When you care about someone who’s living with depression, it’s tempting to drop everything to be by their side and support them. It’s not wrong to want to help a friend, but it’s also important to take care of your own needs.

If you put all your energy into supporting your friend, you’ll have very little left for yourself. And if you’re feeling burned out or frustrated, you won’t be much help to your friend.

Set boundaries

Setting boundaries can help. For example, you might let your friend know you’re available to talk after you get home from work, but not before then.

If you’re concerned about them feeling like they can’t reach you, offer to help them come up with a contingency plan if they need you during your work day. This might involve finding a hotline they can call or coming up with a code word they can text you if they’re in a crisis.

You might offer to stop by every other day or bring a meal twice a week, instead of trying to help every day. Involving other friends can help create a bigger support network.

Practice self-care

Spending a lot of time with a loved one who has depression can take an emotional toll. Know your limits around difficult emotions, and make sure you take time to recharge.

If you need to let your friend know you won’t be available for a while, you might say something like, “I can’t talk until X time. Can I check in with you then?”

5. Learn about depression on your own

Imagine having to educate each person in your life about a mental or physical health issue you’re experiencing — explaining it over and over again. Sounds exhausting, right?

You can talk to your friend about their specific symptoms or how they’re feeling, but avoid asking them to tell you about depression in general terms.

Read up on the symptoms, causes, diagnostic criteria, and treatments on your own.

While people experience depression differently, being familiar with the general symptoms and terminology can help you have more in-depth conversations with your friend.

6. Offer to help with everyday tasks

With depression, day-to-day tasks can feel overwhelming. Things like laundry, grocery shopping, or paying bills can begin to pile up, making it hard to know where to start.

Your friend may appreciate an offer of help, but they also might not be able to clearly say what they need help with.

So, instead of saying “Let me know if there’s anything I can do,” consider saying, “What do you most need help with today?”

If you notice their refrigerator is empty, say “Can I take you grocery shopping, or pick up what you need if you write me a list?” or “Let’s go get some groceries and cook dinner together.”

If your friend is behind on dishes, laundry, or other household chores, offer to come over, put some music on, and tackle a specific task together. Simply having company can make the work seem less daunting.

7. Extend loose invitations

People living with depression may have a hard time reaching out to friends and making or keeping plans. But canceling plans can contribute to guilt.

A pattern of canceled plans may lead to fewer invitations, which can increase isolation. These feelings can worsen depression.

You can help reassure your friend by continuing to extend invitations to activities, even if you know they’re unlikely to accept. Tell them you understand they may not keep plans when they’re in a rough patch and that there’s no pressure to hang out until they’re ready.

Just remind them you’re happy to see them whenever they feel like it.

8. Be patient

Depression usually improves with treatment, but it can be a slow process that involves some trial and error. They may have to try a few different counseling approaches or medications before they find one that helps their symptoms.

Even successful treatment doesn’t always mean depression goes away entirely. Your friend may continue to have symptoms from time to time.

In the meantime, they’ll probably have some good days and some bad days. Avoid assuming a good day means they’re “cured,” and try not to get frustrated if a string of bad days makes it seem like your friend will never improve.

Depression doesn’t have a clear recovery timeline. Expecting your friend to return to their usual self after a few weeks in therapy won’t help either of you.

9. Stay in touch

Letting your friend know you still care about them as they continue to work through depression can help.

Even if you aren’t able to spend a lot of time with them on a regular basis, check in regularly with a text, phone call, or quick visit. Even sending a quick text saying “I’ve been thinking of you and I care about you” can help.

People living with depression may become more withdrawn and avoid reaching out, so you may find yourself doing more work to maintain the friendship. But continuing to be a positive, supportive presence in your friend’s life may make all the difference to them, even if they can’t express that to you at the moment.

10. Know the different forms depression can take

Depression often involves sadness or a low mood, but it also has other, less well-known symptoms.

For example, many people don’t realize depression can involve: anger and irritability

confusion, memory problems, or difficulty focusing

excessive fatigue or sleep issues

physical symptoms such as stomach distress, frequent headaches, or back and other muscle pain

Your friend may often seem to be in a bad mood, or feel exhausted a lot of the time. Try to keep in mind that what they’re feeling is still part of depression, even if it doesn’t fit into the stereotypical versions of depression.

Even if you don’t know how to help them feel better, simply saying “I’m sorry you’re feeling this way. I’m here to help if there’s anything I can do” may help.
Depression is a serious but treatable disorder that affects millions of people, from young to old and from all walks of life. It gets in the way of everyday life, causing tremendous pain, hurting not just those suffering from it but also impacting everyone around them.

If someone you love is depressed, you may be experiencing any number of difficult emotions, including helplessness, frustration, anger, fear, guilt, and sadness. These feelings are all normal. It’s not easy dealing with a friend or family member’s depression. And if you neglect your own health, it can become overwhelming.

Constantly talking with your friends is important. If you don’t know where to start, the following suggestions may help. But remember that being a compassionate listener is much more important than giving advice. You don’t have to try to “fix” your friend or family member; you just have to be a good listener.

While you can’t control someone else’s recovery from depression, you can start by encouraging the depressed person to seek help. Getting a depressed person into treatment can be difficult. Depression saps energy and motivation, so even the act of making an appointment or finding a doctor can seem daunting to your loved one. Depression also involves negative ways of thinking. The depressed person may believe that the situation is hopeless and treatment pointless.

Because of these obstacles, getting your loved one to admit to the problem—and helping them see that it can be solved—is an essential step in depression recovery.

1. Understand what your friend is going through. Learn more about depression, anxiety or anything else that your friend is struggling with.

2. Always be willing to listen and encourage your friend to speak out. Ask sincere, open-ended questions to make your friend feel supported, comforted and safe.

3. Acknowledge that what your friend is going through is difficult to handle. Do not tell your friend that it’s not a big deal or it’s easy to snap out of it.

4. Be aware of your mental health and take care of yourself. If you are under constant stress because you are worried about your friend, you may also feel tired or depressed. So make sure to unwind sometimes if you feel overstretched.  

Being struggling with depression for over 10 years, it was severe 10 years ago, but got pulled together. Still feel so sad and cry so much every spring, Jan to Mar, and get better since Apr. Totally for no reason. What upsets me in spring means absolutely nothing in summer time, such tiny insignificant things.

Suggestion: getting sunshine definately helps. Quite a few medications help. Don't hesitate to get help. Medication works more effectively than counseling.
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