Do you have a friend who seems to have lost her zest for life? Maybe she seems sadder than usual or unable to enjoy her everyday activities? If she also has been experiencing a change in sleep patterns, appetite, and seems generally low in energy, she could be suffering from clinical depression.
About a quarter of all adults will experience a bout of clinical depression at some point in their lives. Depression is more than simply feeling moody or upset about a negative event. People who are depressed tend to not be able to love, focus, or work effectively. As the friend of someone who is depressed, you may have to experience a less-than-ideal friendship for a while, but supporting her is more important than ever. Here are five things to keep in mind when comforting a depressed friend:
Don’t Try To Fix It While it’s good to offer help to your friend, don’t try to immediately fix the problem. You may find yourself making suggestion after suggestion and getting impatient when your friend doesn’t want to comply. Everyone has their own process when they navigate depression, and it may be a while before your friend is ready to actively work on her recovery. Ask her, “What’s the best thing I can do for you right now?” If her answer is “nothing,” that’s okay. Sometimes the best way to help someone who’s depressed is to do nothing. Just make sure you make yourself available to her when she’s ready, and remember that only she can take the necessary steps to work through her depression – you can’t fix it.
Keep In Touch Even though you may feel at a loss as to what to do to help your friend, keep checking in with her to offer your support. It may be a while before you get a response, but keep on trying, even if her response is to push you away. People who are depressed need the support of those who love them, even though they sometimes have a very hard time accepting it at first. Remain available to them and have faith that they will come around.
Listen This is a time when your friend might need a sympathetic ear, instead of advice. Listen to your friend and try to refrain from jumping in with suggestions, even though you may get the urge. Sometimes the very reason depressed people try to hide their depression is because they are afraid of not being accepted by those around them. When your friend opens up and expresses the desire to talk to you, be a kind and nonjudgmental listener. Avoid interrupting and don’t react negatively to what your friend tells you. Keep in mind that he/she is trusting you and may just want you to accept what they are going through.
Be Patient Depression is complex, and it can take some time to confront the problem and to heal. Your friend may not seem to be appreciating your efforts, but you can give them comfort if they need it, and be there for them, no matter how much they believe you don't need to be.
Urge Them To Seek Professional Help One of the most helpful things you can do for a friend suffering from depression is help them make a doctor’s appointment for a mental health evaluation. This is the most difficult step for many people who are depressed, and they may be angry and defensive at the suggestion at first. But that doesn’t mean they don't need help. This is especially important if you’re worried about their ability to keep themselves safe. If your friend is explicitly saying they are thinking about suicide, call 911 or your local suicide hotline.