When you have a friend who is going through depression, you may offer advice or wisdom with only good intentions in mind. However, what you say and do may not convey the message you want to send—especially if you don’t have knowledge of the nature of depression and mental illness.
You must always remember that depression is a medical condition just like any other and it requires proper treatment, whether it’s through medication, therapy, or both. When you’re talking to a friend about their depression, try not to repeat platitudes as it may make them feel as if you’re minimizing their feelings. When trying to be there for a friend, keep the following things in mind:
1. Don’t take it personally
Your friend’s depression is not your fault, nor is it theirs. Try not to feel offended or angry if they seem to lash out at you in anger or frustration, keep canceling plans (or forget to follow up), or don’t want to join in with anything.
You are allowed to take a break from your friend. There’s nothing wrong with taking space for yourself if you feel emotionally drained, but you must also remember to avoid blaming your friend or saying things that make their negative feelings worse. Instead, talk to a therapist/counselor or other supportive people about your feelings.
2. Don’t try to fix them
Depression is a serious mental health condition that needs to be treated by a professional. It is not easy to understand exactly what depression feels like if you’ve no experience of it. But it is also not something that can be magically cured by a few well-meaning phrases like, “Be grateful for the good things in your life” or “Just don’t think about sad things.”
If you wouldn’t say something to someone with a physical condition, like diabetes or cancer, you shouldn’t say it to your depressed friend either. Encourage positivity (though your friend may not respond) by letting them know things you like about them — especially when it seems like they are falling too deep into the spiral of negativity. Positive support can let your friend know how much they mean to you.
3. Don’t give advice
Though making a few changes in lifestyle can help in improving symptoms of depression, it is not easy to make these changes in the middle of a depressive episode. You might offer advice with an intention to help, like getting more exercise or eating a healthy diet. But even good advice is not helpful if your friend does not want to hear it at the moment.
There may come a time when your friend will want your advice on changing their lifestyle. Until then, however, it’s best to stick to empathic listening and avoid giving out advice until asked. Encourage positive change by asking them to go for a walk or cooking a nutritious meal together.
4. Don’t minimize or compare their experience
If your friend talks about their depression, you might find yourself saying things like, “I understand,” or “We’ve all been there.” But unless you’ve dealt with depression yourself, this can seem like you’re minimizing their feelings.
Depression is more than simply feeling sad or low. Sadness goes away fairly quickly, while depression lingers and affects mood, relationships, work, school, and every aspect of life for months or even years. Comparing their struggles to someone else’s troubles or saying things like, “But it could be so much worse,” generally may not be helpful. Your friend’s pain is real to them right now — and you may need to validate that pain in order to help them.
Say, “I can’t imagine how hard it must be to deal with. I know I can’t make you feel better, but just remember I’m here to help you.”
When you should intervene
Depression can be deadly. In worst-case scenarios, it may increase a person’s risk of committing suicide or self-injury, so it’s helpful to know the following signs:
● frequent mood swings or changes in personality
● talking about death or dying
● increased substance use
● Dangerous or risky behavior
● giving away belongings or treasured possessions
● talking about feeling trapped or wanting to leave
● pushing people away or wanting to be left alone all the time
● saying goodbye more emotionally than usual
If you think your friend is in danger, urge them to call their therapist while you’re with them or ask your friend to make a call on their behalf.
Please visit the following link to get them the help they need: https://indianhelpline.com/SUICIDE-HELPLINE/
Stay healthy, stay safe 🙂