Seven Simple Ways to Help a Friend When They’re Depressed

I live with high-functioning depression. It’s usually pretty manageable and controlled. But my depression was rough at the beginning of this week.

My best friend drove 40 minutes to my place and back just to give me hugs, eat pizza and watch a movie with me. She could only stay for the movie and then go back home to do work. But the fact that she came down for the time that she could meant the world to me at that moment. She knew I wasn’t my normal self but it didn’t faze her. Nothing ever does. She’s seen me through some of my darkest moments.

I know some people don’t know what to do when someone they know is depressed. Or they’re scared they are going to do the wrong thing. People with depression can be fragile so it’s okay. Everyone is different so I can’t speak for everyone but I’m going to tell you little things you can do to try and make their day a little better/easier.

Ask them what you can do for them. Don’t just wait for them to reach out to you. Sometimes all they want is to talk or be reassured. Sometimes they just want to know you’re there. Or they might need your help with something. They likely won’t ask unless you offer it. Ask them if they would like some company or if they would like you to take them out. Ask them if they need some help with their chores.

Encourage them but don’t pressure them. Encourage them to take care of themselves and to get up and do something. Help them gain motivation to do their chores or go to work. But don’t force it. Sometimes they just need to stay in and do nothing for the day. Don’t judge them or make them feel ashamed about it either.

Compliment them/remind them why you love them. Tell them your favourite things about them. Bring back your favourite memories you’ve had with them. Send them a quote or captioned picture that reminds you of them. People who are depressed usually have negative thoughts about themselves or feel as if they’re a burden to the people who love them. Reassure them this isn’t the case. Let them know the world is better with them here. Remind them that they are loved.

Check in with them. This is a simple way to show you care and want to help. This will make them feel less of a burden and take the pressure off from keeping it inside. “Don’t assume that they are okay just because they haven’t told you that they’re struggling.”[1]

Try to make them laugh. Research shows that laughing has many mental health benefits. It can boost energy and mood. “Laughter gives you the courage and strength to find new sources of meaning and hope. Even in the most difficult of times, a laugh–or even simply a smile–can go a long way toward making you feel better.”[2] It can also just be a simple way of showing them that you’re trying to make them smile.

Educate yourself. It’s okay if you’re not sure what to do or how to react to certain things. It’s okay to ask questions. Ask them to help you understand what they’re feeling and to help you understand your part as a friend. There are tons of resources on the internet about mental health. A quick google search can tell you everything you need to know. However, everyone is different so everything might not contain to your friend. When confused or in doubt, ask.

Let them lean on you for a bit. Let them talk and rant. Let them cry in your arms. Let them be weak. Let them be a vulnerable and needy mess. It helps a lot if you just let them be and not judge. “One person sticking around and caring can be the difference between someone struggling through a hard time and coming out the other side stronger or staying stuck in a prison of the mind for a significant portion of their life.”[3]

However, keep in mind that you should take care of yourself as well. If you find yourself getting overwhelmed, you may need to step back and give yourself some time and space. Treat yourself to something. You deserve it. “You know the analogy of putting on your own oxygen mask before helping someone else? Being in a close relationship with someone who struggles with a mental illness can be exhausting. If you don’t take time to recharge, it can lead to burn out, anger and resentment.”[4]

[1] Baker, K. (2015). Ten More Ways to Love Someone With Depression. The darling bakers. Retrieved from http://www.thedarlingbakers.com/ten-ways-love-someone-depression/

[2] Smith, M., & Segal, J. (2016). Laughter is the Best Medicine. HelpGuide.org. Retrieved from http://www.helpguide.org/articles/emotional-health/laughter-is-the-best-medicine.htm

[3] Baker, 2015

[4] Ibid.

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