What Your Friend With Depression Wishes You Knew
Depression and mental health as a whole is something we’re talking about more than ever before, thanks to the monumental growth of social media. I’ve seen more friends able to speak their mind online. Bell Let’s Talk in Canada really has had everyone talking, and some of my friends who’ve hidden their diagnosis don’t hide it anymore. Awareness and education are being spread, and people in the community are being empowered.
However, it still is an illness. It still is an invisible illness. It’s harder to grasp because the general public can’t physically see it. And hey, seeing is believing, right?
Wrong. It’s so very internal, and the only way to know if someone is struggling is if they tell you.
So how do you support a friend if you don’t even know they’re struggling?
I’m going to tell you now, this person will only tell you about their depression if they trust you. Mental health has been such a taboo subject.
Friend A: Hey B, how was your day?
Friend B: Honestly, it wasn’t that great. I’ve been feeling depressed all day, didn’t want to get out of bed and cried a lot.
Friend A: Yeah right, you look great! That’s a nice shirt you have on. You’re probably just having a bad day. I mean, I feel depressed all the time too! The other day I watched ‘Marley and Me’ and was depressed for the rest of the night. But a few hours later I got over it and watched the hockey game.
Friend B: Oh… yeah. Maybe you’re right.
This is an all too familiar conversation, and it needs to change.
For me, being diagnosed with major depression, I’ll tell you that it’s an everyday struggle. I don’t find it easy to tell people about it, and when I’m in a crisis, it becomes even harder to reach out. Over the years I’ve been able to do tons of research and meet new people along the way who make me feel like I’m not alone. There’s been an immeasurable amount of discussion about what we wish others would know about depression, and mental health as a whole.
So, here’s a simplified guide to what we wish you knew:
It is not a made-up diagnosis. You wouldn’t know how many people think you are faking being depressed. They just think you’re sad and can get over it at the drop of a dime. It doesn’t work that way, and also, many health professionals can provide a proper diagnosis.
When you don’t hear from us for a while, we aren’t ignoring you. Some days, depression really hits you like a punch in the stomach. It hurts. It’s hard to breath. It takes your will to do absolutely anything. We still want to be your friend, but sometimes picking up the phone and typing that message, or making that phone call feels like the absolutely hardest thing at that time.
When you don’t hear from us for a while, please reach out. Shutting ourselves in is such an easy alternative for us when we’re feeling the lows of our depression. A quick “hello” to say you’re thinking of us will feel like winning the lottery.
Please learn about resources to help us. When we are in a crisis, we lose our ability to think straight. Know the signs of distress:
- Feelings of worthlessness
- Loss of interest in things they once loved (eg. board games, shopping, etc)
- Extreme weight loss/gain
- Insomnia or excessive sleeping
- Forgetfulness, difficulty concentrating
- Difficult short-term memory
- Thoughts of self-harm or suicide
Do some research. Even just basic reading online. BellLetsTalk.ca is also a great resource.
Don’t tell us:
- To get over it.
- To go outside because that’s what makes you feel better.
- To stop feeling sorry for ourselves.
- “Aren’t you always depressed?”
- That we are just having a bad day.
- To calm down.
- That things could be worse — we know this, but it doesn’t matter at this moment.
- The “logical” way you can solve whatever is distressing us.
We often aren’t looking to problem-solve at this moment. We just want comfort We actually do know logically what we should be doing, but it’s easier said than done.
Do tell us:
- That you are there for us.
- That we aren’t alone.
- That we are important.
- That these feelings aren’t forever.
- That it’s OK if we don’t want to talk.
- That we aren’t going crazy, and it is OK to feel this way.
- “I’m here for you no matter what.” (And actually mean it.)
- That you don’t understand what we are feeling but you are there for us.
- “How are you feeling? Please help me have a better understanding.”
- “Would you want to meet for coffee?”
Sometimes a short meet-up can make all the difference. For example:
- Go grocery shopping.
- Go for a walk.
- Do some crafts.
- Hang out without saying anything. (Read a book next to each other. Sometimes just the presence of someone helps.)
- Sometimes we just need some encouragement.
- Offer to give a ride to an appointment, support meeting, etc.
Praise the little accomplishments you might think are tiny, but to a person with depression, it is a big feat.
We often feel like a burden to our friends and family, which will cause us to hide our feelings and concerns. Please help us or let us know that this is not the case.
I know this might be a lot to take in, but trust me; it’s a lot for the person struggling with depression as well. The list may be long, and I may have missed some things. But the best way to approach anything is with an open mind. Talk to your friend, ask how you can help. Be there for them, and be someone they can trust.
Follow this journey on Little Gold.
If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.
If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “HOME” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.
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Thinkstock photo via Ryan Herron