With statistics suggesting that around one in four adults will experience a mental illness at some point each year, the chances are, you might know someone who’s suffering right now. Depression can be a particularly difficult condition to understand, and you may be confused about how best to help a close friend when they’re going though this form of mental illness.
Get professional help It goes without saying, but make sure your friend is receiving medical help as well as your love and support. It’s key that they get professional advice and attend regular GP appointments. Let them know that you’re there to talk and that there are sources of further support and resources available. This could be via their local GP in the first instance, Employee Assistance Programmes through their workplace, or services like the Samaritans. Online counselling service Better Help advise that ‘the best treatment for depression is the combination of talk therapy and medication to manage the neurochemical imbalances in the brain. Thus another way to support a friend is to encourage them to consider these options.
Respect their personal experience It can be easy to make snap judgements about why someone is depressed or to assume you know how to fix their problems, but try to be impartial. Try and listen non-judgementally and empathetically and give them your full focus. Remember to respect that their experiences and values may be different to yours and take care not to express judgement or criticism because of your own attitudes and beliefs. It’s also worth bearing in mind that the symptoms of depression manifest themselves in unusual ways.Some people will be noticeably withdrawn and show signs of weight gain or weight loss, lack of sleep, lack of energy, but not everyone will fit this picture.
Different people have different coping strategies for what they’re going through and so the biggest tip is not to interpret, [or] judge a depressed person’s experience. Send a meaningful text Contacting your friend might feel awkward at first, but try to persevere, especially if they’re purposely isolating themselves. A friend going through a period of depression and say regular contact is essential for their recovery. They say, ‘send a message but have a reason for the message, even if secretly you are just checking in. Instead try, ‘did you watch the game last night?’ Nothing says, I care, more than an actual conversation. The human touch.’ Many agree that even the simple things can have an impact. Just a simple text to say ‘thinking of you” can make all the difference. It’s about letting them know that you’re still in their life, without pressure for them to do or be anything else.’
Don’t pile on the pressure It can be tempting to intervene when you see your friend struggling with everyday tasks but \ finding the balance between being helpful and overbearing is key. To give an example, if they haven’t done their dishes, don’t do the dishes for them, but equally don’t pressurise them to do it or get angry ‘Simply give them confidence that they’ll be able to do it in their own time. Let them know that if they need a hand, they just need ask.’ Don’t put them in uncomfortable situations Instead of dragging them to a pub, restaurant or other crowded place, suggest you both go for a walk. The last thing many would want to do is to be surrounded by people, it’s way too much, especially if anxiety is kicking in,’ according to someone suffering from depression. A mindful, peaceful stroll out in nature is perfect for our mental well-being. Let your friend guide you.
Some of the best support is just being in the same room as your best friend without having to say a word. Just sit in the living room, watch TV, eat a year’s worth of snacks and don’t say a word. When some people are down, they don’t like talking.but they will enjoy just having you sit their with them.
Don’t try to solve their problems The truth is that most of us with depression just want someone to listen, not someone who claims to have all the answers. If you have a friend suffering from depression, the main thing is to understand first of all is that you’re not responsible for it and you can’t make it go away. Although this can feel frustrating, don’t feel disheartened. Just be. It will pass.’ This sense of acceptance can help because ‘it can change a person’s sense of perspective. Instead until they felt a shift in their mental health. So instead of thinking about what to do to try and fix the situation, instead thinking about how to ‘be’. ‘Be aware of what they’re going through. Be compassionate to the difficulty of it. Don’t give advice, or tell them what to do. ‘It’s also important to acknowledge that supporting someone with depression can be tough and you don’t have to cope on your own – you might need somebody to talk to too and counselling services are there for that reason also. Don’t put it all on your shoulders.’