It is great to help others, but the most important thing to remember while helping a friend is to continue taking care of yourself. Without your own healthy emotional state, you will not be able to offer any assistance to anyone else.
With that in mind, the best way to help a friend who is dealing with depression is to offer them resources to make the decision to help himself or herself. If you have a good understanding of what depression is and what your friend is going through, then you can proceed appropriately.
What is Depression?
Depression is a psychological mood disorder characterized by symptoms like depressed mood, feelings of hopelessness, sleep disturbances, and even suicidal thoughts. To be diagnosed with major depressive disorder, the symptoms must be present everyday, for almost the duration of each day, for at least seven consecutive days.
In less clinical words, depression is a mental illness that changes the way a person views life. Disinterest in doing much of anything, especially activities that used to bring that person great pleasure, is a sure sign of depression. Expressing feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness, withdrawing from friends, family, work, or school, and changes in behaviors like sleeping, eating, exercising, socializing, and substance use all signal some level of depression.
What Can You Do to Help?
The first step is having a conversation with your friend. It may seem daunting, and you may not ever feel comfortable doing it, but if you can muster up the courage, you have a great chance at helping your friend. You can approach the conversation with love and compassion, and be prepared to do more listening than talking, assuming your friend is ready to talk.
To start, you can use an “I feel” statement, like “I feel very concerned for you,” or “I feel like checking in with you because it seems you have felt down lately.” You can make an “I feel” statement your own, based on your preferred method of communication, and based on what you know about your friend and how the two of you best communicate. How will he or she best hear the message you are trying to convey?
You can reinforce the love you have for your friend by saying things like:
- “I am here for you always, you are not alone in this.”
- “You are important to me, and to others.”
- “Tell me what you need. Tell me what I can do to help.”
- “I may not understand what you are feeling and going through, but I care and want to help.”
Try not to minimize your friends feelings and experiences, so avoid the following:
- “Look at the bright side.”
- “It’s all in your head.”
- “What’s wrong with you.”
Next, offer up some suggestions, but try to keep the space open for your friend to make his or her own decision. Questions like, “Are you willing to make an appointment with your doctor?” or “Want to see what options are available?”, can help your friend take the next step. You can look up treatment centers on your computer and share those with your friend, and gauge the reaction to know how to proceed.
Helping a friend is noble. Don’t get discouraged if you do not get the results you want right away. Keep showing up with love and compassion, and take care of your own emotions.