10 Ways You Can Help a Friend with Depression
Depression can affect anyone. Yet, it is still an illness that many people don't understand. People talk about mental illness much more than they used to. Even so, there is still a stigma attached to mental health. A stigma that prevents many people from being open about depression. If you have a friend with depression, it can be difficult to know what you can do to help them. Here are ten ways that you can help a friend who is suffering from depression.
1. Educate Yourself
The first thing to do if you want to help someone with depression is to learn more about the illness. If you have never suffered from depression, it can be very difficult to empathize with someone who is. There are lots of very good resources online that you can refer to. So, do some research and then you will be much better equipped to offer your friend help and support.
2. Take It Seriously
Depression is not something that someone can snap out of. You can't fix the problem with one good night out, for example. When you are talking to someone with depression, don't try to make light of the condition. Depression is a serious illness. You won't be able to help a depressed person by telling them to cheer up or to pull themselves together and get over it.
3. Become a Good Listener
When people get depressed, they often feel very isolated. They may feel that they have no one they can talk to about their problems. You can tell anyone that you have a bad cold and you will get some sympathy. But it's difficult for a depressed person to talk about how they are feeling. Be there for your friend and let them do the talking. Encourage them to talk about their illness, but don't try to offer any immediate solutions. Your support is the most important thing that you have to offer.
4. Encourage Them to Get Help
If a person is very depressed, it is important that they seek professional advice. There are support groups and counselors who can provide help. A person with severe depression may also need to take medication to ease their condition. Encourage your friend to talk to their doctor. Try to make your friend understand that depression is a disease that is treatable. It's not something that your friend has to struggle with on their own.
5. Offer Practical Help
Depressed people sometimes neglect everyday tasks. You might find that they don't have enough food in their home, or they are not keeping on top of household chores. A depressed person might also find it difficult to open their mail and pay their bills. You can't cure a friend's depression, but you can offer practical help. If you are going shopping, ask your friend if they need anything. If you know that they aren't eating, offer to cook them a meal. Little things like this can be a great comfort to someone with depression.
6. Keep Them in The Loop
A depressed person is likely to withdraw from their social circle. They may not want to socialize at all. Keep them in the loop, though. Invite them to social events, but don't push too hard for them to attend. Inviting your friend to events will reassure them that they are not forgotten. It will remind them that their friends will still be there for them when they are ready to reengage.
7. Don't Try to Be an Expert
An overriding feeling that depressed people have is that no one understands them. So, don't try to tell your friend how to cure their illness. Things like a healthy diet and exercise can help some people with depression. Even medication works for some and not for others. Leave the treatment of the illness to the professionals. The most import thing that you can do for a depressed friend is to be there for them.
8. Don't Belittle the Condition
If your friend tells you about how they feel, take what they are saying seriously. Depression is not the same as having a low day or feeling sad. It is a debilitating condition that can affect every aspect of a person's life. Saying things like "I know how you feel", or "we have all been there" is not helpful. It will make your friend think that you are not taking their illness seriously. If you have never experienced depression, you do not know anything at all about how it feels. So, it is much better to admit that you don't understand what your friend is going through rather than pretend.
9. Be Prepared to Act in an Emergency
If you have any concerns at all that your friend may harm themselves, you must act. If you think that there is a danger that your friend may attempt suicide, call emergency services. It can be a tough decision to make if your friend is insisting that they don't want help. They may even hate you in the short term for intervening. In time, though, when they feel better, they will thank you for your prompt intervention.
10. Be Patient
It can be very frustrating dealing with a friend who has depression. There may be times when you would rather walk away and get on with your own life. Don't lose your patience, though. Don't desert a friend when they need your help the most. Depression can affect anyone. The next person who needs help with depression could be you.
Depression is a difficult thing to deal with. Both for the person suffering from the illness and for their friends and family. The most important thing you can do for a friend with depression is to be there for them. Encourage your friend to seek help and provide your own help when your friend needs it. After all, isn't that what friends are for?