If I was to take a survey, the chances are high that you know someone who struggles or has struggled with depression. That’s not surprising when you consider the fact that depression is the second leading cause of death in 15 to 29-year-olds.
Depression can drain a person of energy, motivation, drive and optimism; making them feel like there is no way forward for them in life.
Watching someone close to you have a depressive episode can be very challenging if you don’t know what to do, but it’s a proven truth that having support and encouragement from friends can help speed up recovery from depression.
Here are four ways you can help a friend who struggles with depression;
1. Listen to them and take their feelings seriously.
A good way to help a depressed friend is by listening to them. You can start a conversation by asking them how they feel and if they would like to share what’s on their mind. And even though you might not understand their feelings don’t make light of it.
One of the worst things you can do to a person who is depressed is to invalidate their feelings by telling them to “snap out of it” or “it’s all in their head.” Honestly, if they could, they would have done that. You should actually listen to them, hear them describe how they feel and show a lot of empathy. Avoid giving any advice that tells them how to get over it as it would most likely be very unhelpful for them.
2. Help them find support.
It’s possible your friend may not even be aware that they suffer from symptoms of depression, and even if they do, they might not know how to get support or even be motivated to reach out for help.
You can help them search online for therapy and counselling services, or help them book an appointment to see a mental health professional.
You may even take it a step further and offer to accompany them on their first visit, as your presence might help reduce the tension they may feel at a first visit.
3. Offer help.
Depression can make regular everyday tasks like laundry, cooking and shopping very overwhelming for your friend, and one way you can help is by offering to help with them.
Remember, they may not be able to clearly articulate what they need, so you should actually ask them. You can ask questions like, “what can I do to help” or what do you need help doing right now?”
4. Invite them out.
People with depressive symptoms often want to avoid the company of other people and just stay alone. This pattern of behaviour will see them frequently cancelling the plans they make with their friends.
Eventually, they may start to get fewer invitations to go out and this will increase their isolation, further worsening their depression. As a supportive friend, keep inviting them out, even though you know they might cancel.
A good way to end this would be to remind you to be patient with them. Depression is not like a cold that runs its course or like malaria that is treated with a certain dosage.
It may take time before you begin to see signs of recovery, but please do not give up on your friends and don’t allow them to give up on themselves too.