Depression is a common but serious mood disorder. Putting it in very simple terms, it is basically a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest which gradually becomes excessive, all-consuming and interferes with daily living. A depressed person often deals with feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt and so if you want to be there for a friend who is dealing with the same; it is a bit hard to know exactly how to help him/her. So, if you are in a dilemma as to how to help your friend, check out our tips for helping a friend with depression and also remember to look after yourself in the process too.
11 Ways to Help Your Friend with Depression
Making sure that the person is actually depressed
The very first important step in our ladder of helping your friend is watching for the symptoms of depression in your friend which is many times ignored but is a significant step. If you are unsure, there are several common signs of depression that may help you to determine if something is wrong. Some of the common symptoms of depression include:
- Sudden change in body weight
- Constant sleep problems
- Lack of interest
- Loss of concentration
- Inability to think clearly
- Greatly slowed behaviour
- Thoughts of death and suicide
- Excessive guilt and feeling of worthlessness
Let him know he is not alone
It is very common for a depressed person to feel a sense of loneliness and isolation. It is thus very important that you let your friend know that you are there for him or her and make him or her aware of the fact that you are available to them and that he or she can contact you anytime.
You need to assure your friend by saying things like, “i know you are going through a tough time and i want you to know that i’m always here for you.” Or “i’m just a call away, contact me whenever you need me and i’ll be here.”
There are chances that your friend doesn’t respond positively towards your efforts and thus don’t be discouraged. Give him or her time and always be available to them.
Listening is the main key
A very important aspect in helping your friend is keeping in mind that he or she is already feeling isolated and distressed and so it is very important that you resort to listening more and try to understand him or her better, as your friend is in need of someone to open up to which even they don’t realise because the person often feels embarrassed and ashamed of his or her problems. So be the non-judgmental open ear to your friend as listening to him or her would not only help you understand as to what your friend is going through but also gives the person a sense of belongingness and a feeling that he or she is no more alone.
Taking things seriously
After listening to what exactly your friend is facing it is really important that you understand the need of the hour which at the moment is that instead of trying to make your friend realise that he/she is being vague or unrealistic, or trying to tell him/her to ‘forget things’ in a direct manner, it is necessary that you empathise with them instead of trying to counsel them as you aren’t a professional. You should take his/her problems very seriously and also say things like, “that must be really hard”, “im always there whenever you want to talk abpout it”, etc.
Encouragement is the driving force
Being the sun of hope for your friend is really important. He or she has probably lost all of the hope regarding life and so this brings us to the next step that is encouragement. This is a really significant step as this helps you making your friend realise that he/she is not worthless and that he/she is valuable to you and others. You can do this by reminding them what they are good at. For example: your friend may sing well or draw well, etc. Make your friend aware of all the goodness and different talents that he/she is gifted with. Give assurance that this phase will soon go away. A very important thing to be aware of is that never say things like “snap out of it” or “it’s only in your mind”, etc.
Patience leads to victory
It is possible that even after your efforts your friend resorts to self-sabotaging behaviours, that is, he/she may try to skip their medications, try to skip therapy sessions, may stop opening up to you all of a sudden, again drown in the darkness of isolation, etc. This is the time you have to be really patient and composed. This is the time when you need to be wise, cooperative and compassionate. Try to communicate to your friend again that you believe in him/her. Take initiative to keep a check on his/her medication and also drive them to their therapist yourself and keep encouraging and empathising.
Keeping an eye for suicidal signs
Depressed person is very much capable of ending their lives if the pain and the feeling of worthlessness are too much to bear. So, one has to be very alert if any sign of suicidal thoughts is seen in the person. Therefore, if your friend ever mentions suicide, are constantly saying directly or indirectly that he/she has given up on everything now, is indulging into self-harming acts like cutting oneself, purchases a gun or a weapon, or has a sudden calmness in their attitude, you directly and immediately should contact suicide prevention helplines or a mental health care!
Outings could be a good change
If you see no serious suicidal signs in your friend and you feel all the steps you’ve taken till now have worked so far, its time that you try taking your friend out somewhere to a place he/she used to adore so as to make his/her surrounding more positive which will further help your friend in recovery. Plan fun activities which you both can enjoy, go for food outings, rides, etc.
However, it is equally essential that we keep in mind the fact that never pressurize your friend in doing something forcefully. Also, patience again is the key here.
Laughter is a wonderful exercise
This is a step which is very much related to step number.8! Laughter is the world’s best medicine but you have to be very careful as to when to make your friend laugh.
Never try it when he/she is crying their emotiions out to you or opening up.
Also, since you know what makes your friend happy, try those things or jokes. Never be discouraged if he/she doesn’t laugh, as you need to understand it is a tough time for him/her and so without giving up try other ways to help.
Be preapared if symptoms start reoccuring
Depression has an episodic tendency and so be vigilant regarding to symptoms if they start to reappear. It is common for depression patients to suffer reoccurrences and this does not mean that it can’t be cured. Just remember to be there for your friend again and empathise. Switch back to previous steps of encouragement and listening and help your friend outgrow that feeing again. Offer your help the same way and also let him/her know that you see that they seem tired and sad and that you are there to listen.
Self-care is essential too!
Taking care of your friend is a priority but, in many cases, it is noticed that the person who is taking care forgets to pay attention to themselves and their mental and physical health. This is extremely unhealthy as there are chances that you suffer from emotional crises because helping a friend battling with depression takes a lot of hard work. So, it is important that time and again you also focus on meditating, yoga, working out, reading books, on your hobbies, etc. so as to keep yourself calm and composed enough to be there as a strong support system to your friend.