It isn’t always true that “misery loves company” .Especially not in the case of depression. We all go through bad days or weeks when we just want to be left alone and don’t want to talk to anyone and that’s okay. Taking a little break from your social obligations to practice a little self care can actually be therapeutic.
But clinical depression is a completely different thing, where withdrawing from friends and other loved ones can actually cause harm to the health. People going through clinical depression tend to feel hopeless, worthless and exhausted by simple day to day activities. It starts to impact almost all aspects of a person’s life from work to sleep to eating habits.
The depth of the pain for a depressed person can be frightening to witness for their friends. This fear may even lead to many friends pulling away. But having a supportive friend can be a huge help to those who suffer from depression.
The symptoms of depression you should look out for in a friend are the following. They may:
● seem sad or tearful
● act more pessimistic than usual or be hopeless about the future
● talk about feelings of guilt, emptiness, or worthlessness
● seem less interested in spending time together or interact less frequently than normal
● get easily upset or unusually irritable
● have low energy, move slowly, or seem generally listless
● have less interest in their appearance than usual or neglect basic hygiene, like showering and brushing their teeth
● have insomnia or sleep much more than usual
● Stop caring about their usual activities and interests
● seem forgetful or have trouble focussing or deciding on things
● eat more or less than usual
● talk about death or suicide
What can you do?
Make sure that your friend knows that you’re there for them. Start talking to them by sharing your concerns or asking specific questions. Say something like “It seems like you’re been having a difficult time lately. What’s on your mind?”
If your friend wants to talk about what they feel, encourage them, but try not to offer any advice until they ask. Ask questions to know more instead of assuming you understand what they mean. Make an effort to validate their feelings like, “That sounds really difficult. I’m sorry to hear that.” Also show empathy and interest using your body language. They may be reluctant to talk the first time you ask, so it can help to continue letting them know that you care.
Ask open questions (without being pushy) and express your concern. Try to have face to face conversations if possible. If you can’t, try video chatting.
2. Help them find support
Your friend may not know themselves that they’re dealing with depression, or be unsure about reaching out for support. It can be a daunting task to look for a therapist and make an appointment. If your friend is willing to be in counseling, offer to help them look for potential therapists. Encouragement and support to make that first appointment can be so helpful for your struggling friend.
3. Offer to help with everyday tasks
Depression can make day-to-day tasks feel overwhelming. Things like doing laundry, grocery shopping, or paying bills begin to pile up and makes it hard to know where to start. Your friend might appreciate your help, but they might not be able to clearly say what they need help with. So, instead of “Let me know if there’s anything I can do,” try something like, “What do you most need help with today?” Many times, simply having company can make the tasks seem far less daunting.
4. Extend loose invitations
People suffering from depression might not find it easy to reach out to friends and make or keep plans. But canceling plans can also make them feel guilty. Canceling too many plans lead to fewer invitations, which increases isolation. These feelings can make depression worse.
You reassure your friend by continuing to invite them, even if you know they’re unlikely to accept. Make sure they know that you understand they may not keep plans if they’re going through a rough patch and that there’s no pressure to come until they’re ready.
Just let them know that you’re happy to see them whenever they feel like it.
5. Be patient
Depression can be improved by treatment, but it can be a slow process involving some trial and error. They may have to go through a few different counseling approaches or medications before they find one that alleviates their symptoms.
Depression may not go away entirely even with successful treatment. Your friend may keep having the symptoms from time to time. They’re going to have some good days and some bad days. Don’t assume that a good day means that they’re “cured,” and don’t get frustrated if a string of bad days makes it feel like your friend will never improve.
There is no clear recovery timeline for depression. Don’t expect your friend to return to their usual self after a few weeks in therapy.
6. Stay in touch
Let your friend know that you still care about them as they continue to treat their depression. Even if you can’t spend a lot of time with them regularly, check in on a regular basis with a text, phone call, or quick visit. Just send a quick text like “I’ve been thinking of you and I care about you”.
People who go through depression may be more withdrawn and may not reach out, so you’re going to have to do more work to maintain the friendship. But keep being a positive, supportive presence in your friend’s life and it may make all the difference to them, even if they can’t say that to you at the moment.
If you’re worried about a friend going through depression/having extreme thoughts, please visit the following link to get them the help they need: https://indianhelpline.com/SUICIDE-HELPLINE/
Stay healthy, stay safe