Whether it be a close friend or family member, it’s hard to discover that someone close to you is suffering from depression. You want to help in some way, to ease their pain, to let them know that you are there for them. There are so many things you want them to know, but you feel a little worried as to what to say, how to act. So instead many of us say nothing, avoid the subject or act like there is nothing wrong.
So how can you really help your friend? Are there some general things that you should do? Or perhaps more importantly we should ask – are there things that you should not do?
Every person who suffers from depression is different so there is no absolute right or wrong answer, but below you will find some tips that have helped many people to support a friend struggling with depression:
Tip 1 – Don’t ignore it!
Acknowledge to your friend that you have noticed that they appear down lately. Let them know that it makes you sad to see them sad, that they are important to you. Make them feel useful, even by sharing your own worries or concerns (without burdening them of course). Let your friend know that you take their problem seriously and want to be there for them.
Tip 2 – Listen!
Remember you have two ears and only one mouth! When talking to a friend who is suffering from depression your goal is to listen twice as much as you speak!
Gently question your friend as to why they have such feelings. If your friend seems slow or reluctant to talk about things, don’t pressure them. Let them know that their concerns matter to you and that you are there to listen when they are ready.
If your friend shares their concerns with you, don’t be quick to laugh them off, or try to joke about then in attempt to change your friend?s opinion of their worries. Remember these concerns are very serious to your friend at this particular time. Show them that you are listening carefully to their concerns and taking them seriously.
It can be tempting to try to offer solutions to the worries raised by your friend, but remember your two ears! Listen carefully to the complete picture first before jumping in with your solutions. Remember a friend that is a good listener can often be of much more benefit than the friend who attempts to solve every problem.
Tip 3 – Try To Feel What It’s Like To Be In Their Shoes
Depression is no easy thing to understand and can vary in form and extent from person to person. Likely you may not be able to understand how your friend feels or where they are coming from with their concerns, but to the extent that you can try to keep an open mind and take a walk around in their shoes as best you can.
Remember the fact that you are trying to understand how your friend feels can give them the reassurance that they need that they are important, that they do matter.
When trying to help a friend with depression, you may at times feel frustrated or like giving up yourself in your desire to help them. If you are feeling like that then remember that a depressed person has a highly sensitive mind and heart. Treat them gently and tenderly and you may very well be helping them much more than you could possibly realise.