According to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America, at least 264 million people are living with depression worldwide. If you have a friend who is living with depression, you may be concerned and wish to help them. There are ways that you can support a loved one but there are also certain things that can be avoided as well, especially on how to help someone who is experiencing depression.
Educate Yourself About Depression
- Major depressive disorder
- Persistent depressive disorder
- Seasonal affective disorder
- Postpartum depression
- Premenstrual dysphoric disorder
- Psychotic depression
- Bipolar disorder
- Atypical depression
Not all people who go through depression will have similar experiences, and some people may have a tougher time coping than other people. Your friend’s symptoms may not line up perfectly with someone else’s experiences.
You might feel tempted to tell your friend that you understand what they’re going through or try to compare what they’re feeling to something else that you’ve heard about. Comparing their experiences to something you’ve gone through can be unhelpful. It’s best to try learning about depression and to be there as a source of support. You may not be able to alleviate your friend’s symptoms, but you can be someone who shows them love and support. This support can make a difference, and the more you know about depression, the easier it may be to navigate these conversations.
Take The Time To Listen To Your Friend
Depression is a lot more serious than just feeling melancholy for most people, but having someone to talk to can help a lot. If you can be a person that your friend can count on when they need to talk, then that can make a world of difference to them. People with depression can feel isolated when they’re in the midst of a depressive episode. If you’re able to make your friend comfortable and they have an easy time opening up to you, that could be hugely beneficial.
Try to be a person who listens without judgment and knows the power of validating someone’s feelings. This isn’t about coming up with solutions or getting your friend to change how they think about things. It’s just about being present and showing empathy for someone that you care about. This can be helpful whether your friend is coping with minor depressive disorder or clinical depression. Being a good friend and making yourself available when your friend with depression reaches out, is important.
Offer Your Help With Daily Challenges
Some people may struggle when it comes to coping with everyday life while they’re depressed. Doing the laundry or going grocery shopping may feel like a daunting task when you’re in the middle of a severe bout of depression. It’s crucial to have support when struggling like this, and you can be there for your friend during this time. An action such as going grocery shopping might not seem like much to you, but it could mean the world to your friend.
Remember that not every person with depression is going to need or want help from others. Try not to push if your friend declines your offer to provide assistance. Your heart might be in the right place, but some people don’t like feeling like they need others to do certain things. Other people with depression might welcome the assistance. You can be there for your friend and let them know that you can help if they feel like they need it.
Spend Time Together
You don’t have to make a hang out with your friend all about depression. Sometimes, it may be nice to do things that you both enjoy together. Playing a game together or watching movies might make a great evening.
Not all people are going to want to socialize when they’re depressed. Regardless, it may be helpful to invite your friend to hang out when possible. If your friend doesn’t want to do anything because of how they’re feeling, try to be understanding while letting them know that you’re there for them. This may be painful to experience when you just want to help your friend, but it’s important to be patient and respect their boundaries.
Try Not To Take Offense
There may be times when your friend is frustrated with you or others. Depression can take on many forms, and some of those forms involve angry emotions. People going through bouts of depression might experience anger and become irritable. This could even involve your friend saying some hurtful things to you, and this can be tough to address.
These incidents of lashing out at others may not necessarily indicate their true feelings toward you. People can become overwhelmed with emotion, and sometimes hurt the people that are closest to them. Do your best not to take these words personal. It might sometimes be necessary to take a step back and give your friend some space.
Support The Idea Of Going To Therapy
It can also be beneficial for your friend to get professional help. The best thing that you can do is to support the idea of talking to a mental health professional. You shouldn’t try to force your friend to go to therapy though. They can make that decision on their own, but you can provide gentle support while letting them know that you care about their well-being. Let them know that you think therapy sounds like a good idea and tell them that you just want to make sure they have all the support they need.
If your friend is already going to therapy, try to be supportive of that and encourage them to continue. Sometimes, people who are depressed may withdraw and want to cancel appointments during depressive episodes but it’s possible for you to encourage them to keep the appointment. Little things like this can make a difference when someone you care about trusts you. Your opinion and support could help a friend to make positive decisions. Remember that therapy is one of the most effective treatments for depression and that navigating depression can be more comfortable with the help of a skilled therapist.
Learning about therapy might help you to bring up good points to your friend as well. For example, there are many therapy options available that can make things easier. Many people may thrive when going to see a therapist in-person at a traditional office, but other people might like the convenience of online therapy and may love being able to get help without having to leave home.
Studies have found that digital therapy had “meaningful improvements in depression and anxiety.” Clients can explore their mental health and depression with a licensed provider in the comfort of their own home or preferred environment. Internet-based therapy is also more convenient for people living in remote areas and it’s typically more affordable than in-person therapy because clients are not required to travel for an appointment.
Your friend might also find taking medication to be useful for treating depression symptoms. But it’s important not to push your friend to do anything that they’re uncomfortable with. Some people may thrive because of taking antidepressant medications, but some may shy away from prescription medications due to concerns about side effects. You could encourage your friend to speak with a doctor to go over options and be supportive of whatever treatment paths your friend decides.
Remember to take care of yourself as well. It’s good to look out for others, and it means a lot to have a supportive friend when you’re experiencing depression. However, it’s also important to understand that having people in your life who are living with depression can affect you. Sometimes you might need to take some time out to handle your own issues. Recognize the importance of self-care, and don’t try to overextend yourself. Should you believe that you might benefit from professional help, reach out to an online counselor for suggestions on how to support your friend and maintain your own wellbeing.
What should you do if you have a friend who is suffering from depression?
While figuring out how to help a depressed friend may seem daunting, simple strategies are often effective. Giving your friend with depression some of your attention could be very helpful. Evidence suggests that social interaction can significantly improve the symptoms of depression and may help prevent them from worsening.
It is important to remember that depression can be an overwhelming challenge. Avoid judging your friend or giving advice unless they ask; sometimes, just being there is all you need to do. Your friend’s depression might also be draining to those who try to support them, be sure to keep up on your own self-care.
Here are a few specific strategies to help someone with depression:
- Help them get to a professional. If your friend is not seeing a therapist or other mental health professional, you might want to gently nudge them in that direction. A therapist can provide guidance, solutions, and insight, making depression much easier to overcome.
- Go for a walk with them. One of the best ways to reduce the impact of major depression is to get regular physical activity. The activity doesn’t need to be intense; a moderate walk is often enough to be helpful.
- Help them find support socially. Social interaction can help your friend battle depression, but you can’t put it all on your shoulders. Having your friend reach out to others in their support network may be worthwhile. If they don’t have many other people to lean on, you can suggest they join a local or online support group. They may also benefit from family therapy sessions.
- Offer encouragement and validation. Let them know you understand that they are fighting a difficult battle and it's okay to feel the way they do as they overcome their depression.
What is the best advice to give someone who is depressed?
Some of the best advice you can give to someone who is depressed is to see a mental health professional. While depression can be overcome without help, it is significantly more challenging, and outcomes are usually better with the help of a therapist. You may want to tell your friend that it is okay to feel the way they do and that it is okay to get help.
Make sure you offer your advice politely, gently, and non-judgmentally. People experiencing depression benefit from validation and encouragement, and it is important not to judge their experience harshly.
How do you help a friend who is struggling in life?
There are many ways you can help a friend who is struggling. You might be able to help them solve practical problems or take things off of their plate. You could also remind them that you support them and offer some verbal encouragement. Spending time together is often all a person needs to feel a boost from their social support network. Consider asking your friend to take a walk with you or do some other low-stress activity. You might also help them manage everyday tasks, like helping with a couple of household chores.
The things you avoid doing when helping your friend are often as important as the actions you take. Try not to judge them or offer unsolicited advice. Many people struggle with the fact that they are depressed, along with the depression itself. Don’t put them down, imply they are weak, or indicate that they should recover faster. Remember to take care of yourself as well. A depressed person can sometimes be draining to be around; make sure you have ample energy and positivity to communicate before trying to help.
How do you comfort someone who is mentally down?
Comforting someone who is mentally down might be as simple as being there for them. Social interaction is associated with reducing depression symptoms, and socializing with the person you are trying to comfort may be helpful. You can take a short walk together, give the person a chance to talk about what’s bothering them or do a fun activity if the other person is up for it.
What is the first step in helping someone with depression?
One of the best first steps to helping someone with depression is encouraging them to seek professional help. Depression is a complex mental illness with many causes, from stress management to sleep disturbances and hormone imbalances. It can be challenging to overcome depression independently, and a qualified mental health professional can likely make the task much easier.
You might also consider giving the person a chance to talk about themselves and what is going on in their lives. Being a good listener can provide a lot of comfort, and it may come as a relief to the person you are comforting. It can sometimes be difficult to acknowledge depression and reach out to others for help, so be sure to let the person know that talking about themselves is okay. You can also offer validation and encouragement but try not to judge or give unsolicited advice. Don’t expect them to return to their usual self-right away; recovering from depression takes time and effort.
How do you comfort someone who is sad online?
Comforting someone who is sad online may be more challenging than comforting someone in person. If you know the person well enough, you can try setting up a video call or other means of communication that is more personable than text. However, if communicating via text is your only means of reaching the person, be sure to follow the same guidelines as you would for a spoken conversation.
Try to offer plenty of validation and encouragement. People often feel the need to suppress their feelings or downplay them. Stating up-front that the person is free to communicate and that their feelings are valid can make all the difference. Offer emotional support, and let the person communicate if they choose to.
If you’re concerned the person you are trying to comfort is experiencing an emotional crisis or suicidal thoughts, you can tell the person about the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, which can be reached in the United States by dialing 988. The Lifeline is a free resource that provides trained listeners and resources to those experiencing severe emotional distress. More information about the Lifeline and suicide prevention can be found on the National Institute of Mental Health’s website.
What can make depressed people happy?
The causes of depression are varied, and the path to happiness will look different for everybody. Still, some common strategies are known to be effective for many people. One of the most effective ways for depressed people to find happiness is to work with the help of a therapist or other mental health professional. Tracing the roots of depression is often easier with the help of a trained professional who can evaluate the possible causes and suggest treatment options.
While professional help is recommended for anyone who thinks they may be depressed, some common coping strategies can be undertaken without guidance from a therapist:
- Adopt an exercise routine. A regular routine of physical activity is associated with a significant reduction in depression symptoms. The exercise doesn’t need to be intense. A daily brisk walk will likely be helpful and may be even more effective if taken in the company of others.
- Eat a healthy diet. Depression can be both caused by and a cause of poor eating habits.
- Get regular sleep. Inconsistent or disrupted sleep is linked to depressive symptoms, and it may be worthwhile to examine sleep habits to see if they contribute to depression.
What do you say to a friend who is struggling emotionally?
Helping a friend who is struggling emotionally may be as simple as being a good listener. Often, people struggling with difficult emotions feel the need to hide or suppress them. They may not feel comfortable seeking support, and it is likely helpful if you remind them that they are in a safe space. Let the person know you are ready to listen and that they are free to speak about whatever they like.
When the person is speaking, make eye contact and let them complete each thought. A struggling person may become repetitive or return to the same topic multiple times; don’t cut them off if they repeat themselves. Try to avoid making judgments or offering unsolicited advice but do offer plenty of validation and encouragement. Let the person know that it is okay to struggle emotionally and that you are there to support them. Finally, remember that emotional struggles can cause excessive fatigue, and your friend may not want to seek support for very long.
How do you comfort a friend?
Comforting a friend is often as simple as showing up and being there for them. You may not be able to make their sadness go away, at least not immediately, but being present and offering support will likely be helpful. Let the person know you care about them and that they are free to express their feelings. If they don’t want to talk, you might suggest taking a short walk or just sitting together quietly. Sometimes words aren’t part of comforting someone; just being nearby is enough.
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