How to Help a Depressed Friend
Do you have a depressed friend or classmate? Depression is a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects day-to-day activities and interactions. Worse, it’s a growing epidemic among adolescents. Recent studies indicate that as many as one in five teens suffers from clinical depression. From feelings of persistent sadness to fatigue and changes in eating and sleeping habits, depression can take on different forms—especially in teens.
If you know of someone—a friend, classmate, etc.—that’s suffering from depression, it’s important that you give them the support, help, and encouragement they need on their road to recovery.
Below are five tips to keep in mind when helping a friend and what to say to someone that is depressed.
One of the first things you can do is research depression topics. There are tons of resources and information on the web to help you better understand where your friend is coming from. The more informed you are, the better help and encouragement you can provide.
Moreover, Gregory Dalack, M.D., chair of the department of psychiatry at the University of Michigan explains, “The key thing is to help the [depressed] person know that you understand that they’re ill. A lot of people view depression as some sort of character flaw. To let someone know that you understand that this is an illness that needs to be treated is important.”
Besides the basics (what it is, symptoms, and treatment) it’s important that you also understand that recovery is different for each person and learn what part you can play in the treatment process. Learn about the different kinds of therapy methods.
Be there to listen
Talking to someone with depression should first involve more listening on your end. If your friend feels like talking, ask where they’re at, what you can do, and what they find helpful in treating their depression.
If you’re unsure where to start, here are some safe questions to ask:
- How can I best support you right now?
- When did you begin feeling like this?
- Have you thought about getting help?
- What makes you feel worse?
- What makes you feel better?
- How much stress are you dealing with?
Remember to be a sounding board first before offering advice. Give your friend a chance to open up so you can be more informed about their situation.
In addition to being a sounding board, offer to accompany your friend to their treatments, such as doctor appointments, therapy sessions, even tag along when they’re picking up their medications. This can show your friend just how treatable their illness is and the importance of being persistent in the recovery process. Check in with your friend every once in a while and ask what assistance you can provide. You’ll not only be a huge help but give them additional company throughout their treatment.
Do something fun
Organize a fun outing with your friend. Plan something that you both enjoy doing, whether that’s watching a movie, going out to eat, bowling, shopping etc. It’s a great way to show that you care and support your friend, which is what they need.
In addition, if your friend is up for it, try exercising together. It doesn’t need to be anything extravagant—take a yoga or spinning class together, go for a hike, go to the driving range or shoot some hoops. It’s a simple way to get your friend out and about as well as create some great social and bonding time.
Help with the little things
Lastly, look for ways to help your friend out within their day-to-day activities. If they miss some school, work with your teachers to get class notes and homework assignments and deliver to them. Help pitch in if they have household chores, such as cleaning their room or taking the trash out. The little help you provide can go a long way for someone with depression. It can also give your friend extra time to focus on their personal recovery. Just remember not to take on too much, as you don’t want to suffer from burnout!