If someone in your life is suffering from depression, you're probably wondering what you can do to help them.
You also may be skeptical about whether inserting yourself into the situation will hurt their feelings or cross the line if you were to say something wrong. Rest assured, your help is welcome and necessary. The first step in helping a friend with depression is not to ignore the problem.
Before confronting your friend, make sure to educate yourself about the disorder. Check your resources to learn how depression works and its effects on your friend’s mood, health, and life. Plunder reputable medical health libraries and resources, or contact our guidance counselors at Banyan Treatment Center for information. Don't overlook the fact that suicide is a risk factor in depression, and keep an eye out for signs of withdrawn or defeatist behavior from your friend. Depression is not simply a feeling someone can “snap out of.” It has biological and biochemical components that sincerely hinder a person’s mood, energy levels, and rational thought processes. The progression of depression is a spiral that continues to compound and often overwhelms the patient before they realize what’s going on.
Talking to Your Friend about Depression
When it comes time to address the situation with your loved one, be respectful of his or her privacy and have the conversation in a private, non-threatening place. Your friend may still be in a place of denial and vulnerability, having attempted to hide their symptoms from family and friends. It can be embarrassing for a friend or family member to call out something like depression, therefore a non-judgmental, emotionally sensitive approach is advised. Your friend should understand that you want to help and that you offer no judgment, only a helping hand.
If your friend reacts in a negative way, that's okay. They may feel embarrassed and need some time to get comfortable with the idea of accepting help or letting it out. Remain calm and patient, explain that you're there for them when they're ready to face it, and check in with other friends and family to create a support group of awareness and acceptance. If your friend needs to talk, listen without being judgmental of his or her thoughts and feelings. Sometimes just talking about personal issues will help someone work through depression. Talking it out is a way of externalizing inner thought processes that are more difficult to examine and understand when they remain silent thoughts in one’s own head.
Create or Activate a Support Network
Don't be afraid to seek the help of other friends too. Invite your friend to go on a walk or go out to eat with a group of friends. If they decline the invitation, that's okay. Just continue to invite them to other opportunities so they feel included and have the option to reach out. Another helpful thing for people suffering from depression is exercise. Encourage your friend to join you for some sports or running to get the blood pumping and awaken the endorphins that override depression. If someone isn’t comfortable with group exercise or doesn’t have much experience with it, offer to take them to a yoga or spinning class to try something new. While you can help by listening and suggesting activities that may boost endorphins and make a depressed friend feel good, it's also important to encourage your friend to seek professional counseling. Depression can be a difficult and persistent condition that may require continued therapy to fully heal.