Author’s note: This article discusses suicidal thoughts.
Depression was something that I struggled with quite a bit in college. I was lonely, and I just wasn’t in a good place in life. My friends started to notice my behavior and helped me get the help that I needed. Having a friend that struggles with depression can be rather challenging, and I was no exception; however, they persevered with their support towards me. I am convinced that they are a large part of the reason that I overcame my depression.
So what are some ways that you can help your friend struggling with depression?
1. Ask Questions
By asking questions, you can help your friend figure out what exactly triggers their depression and anxiety. Help them figure out what situations seem to make it worse and what makes it better. Really try to know what is going on in their life before trying to offer your advice and opinion. I know that I would immediately shut people out if I didn’t really feel that they understood my situation.
I mean actually listen. Don’t just pretend to listen. You are much more likely to get your friend to open up to you about their struggles if they can clearly see that you are focused on them and that you genuinely care about what they have to say. Don’t look at your phone or glance around the room while they are talking, but look at them. Put aside all distractions.
3. Encourage Support Groups and Medical Treatment
Depression is a medical condition that needs to get treated. Strongly encourage them to seek proper medical care. Be proactive about getting them the treatment that they need to receive. My friend would text me daily to check in on me and ask if I had made an appointment to receive counseling. It annoyed the heck out of me, but I finally did it because I was so tired of her asking me about it.
4. Help Your Friend Stay Active
One of the best things for me in my struggle with depression was staying active. For me, loneliness was what sparked my depression and anxiety. Get your friend out of the house and try to do things that make them laugh.
5. Be Informed
Do not try and give advice to them if you are completely clueless about depression. Don’t try and relate to your friend by talking about that “one time you felt slightly depressed in middle school.” You’ll just turn them off from wanting to talk to you about their depression.
6. Set Practical Expectations
A person who struggles with depression doesn’t just magically recover overnight. It can be a slow, gradual process. Don’t become frustrated if after a deep heart-to-heart, they still seem to be depressed. Be patient and understand that depression isn’t something that can be changed at the snap of your fingers.
7. Look for Warning Signs
Now if your friend seems to be having suicidal thoughts, talk to them about it and get help immediately. Don’t keep it to yourself. Some signs that your friend may be having suicidal thoughts are:
- Obsession with death
- Acting in a self-destructive way
- Sleeping too much or not enough
- Constantly talking about how they think they are a burden
- Feeling hopelessness
- Isolates themselves
Like I said, when I was struggling with depression, my friends were the ones that helped to pull me out of it. Be intentional and closely watch your friend. Depression is a very dark, lonely, and scary place. If you have a friend dealing with depression, be aggressive about reaching out to them. You could save their life.
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