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5 Ways You Can Support a Friend Struggling With Depression

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When I was diagnosed with depression at the age of 15, I was lucky enough to have friends who supported me no matter what I was going through. They loved me when I didn’t love myself, and I will always be grateful to them for that. Navigating the uncharted and confusing territory of depression can make it hard to know the best way to support a friend who is struggling.

Here are a few lessons that may help you support your friend who is experiencing their darkest times:

1. Never dismiss or treat their illness as if it were a choice they made.

Depression is not a deliberate decision they chose to make. Offering advice such as “look on the bright side” and “think positively” might not recognize the mental illness as the illness that it is. Just like you wouldn’t choose to have the flu, you also wouldn’t want someone to tell you to just “stop being sick.” Your friend didn’t choose to have depression, and just like the flu, you can’t just “stop having it.”

2. Let them know they should not feel guilty for what might appear to be a lack of effort to maintain their friendship with you.

Depression isn’t personal and has nothing to do with your friendship. Let your friend know they should not feel guilty or selfish for what appears to be a lack of effort on their part in sustaining your relationship. Let them know that you understand it is not personal and that you know it is a result of their depression.

3. Continue to invite them out even when the answer is frequently no.

I think depressions worst symptom is that it can make you feel like you are alone in the world. The unfortunate paradox is, as much as your friend might feel alone, this feeling can often result in your friend pulling away and isolating themselves. Invite them out often, even if you expect the answer to be no. This is a vital component in letting your friend know that you haven’t forgotten about them and they are always welcomed and loved by you.

4. Be there for them.

Depression is not something that is easy to talk about or explain in a way that others can always understand. The depressed mind often has a hard time understanding itself, let alone trying to tell another person about it. One way you can help fight depression with your friend is by just being there for them. It doesn’t mean you are responsible for making them better, it’s just about being there, even if all you do is sit on the couch together and watch Netflix without saying a word to each other. It’s about being a source of comfort and unconditional love for them when they are experiencing their darkest times.

5. Don’t give up on them.

It may feel like you have lost your friend, but your friend is still there. During the depths of their depression is when they need you the most. Have faith that they will recover and won’t be struggling forever. Make sure they know you never gave up on them. It can be the greatest comfort and support you can give your friend.

It can be unbearably frustrating and heartbreaking to watch your friend change into a shell of who they once were, but don’t doubt for a single second that they are not still in there just waiting to come out and be themselves again. Even when it doesn’t seem like “being there” and not giving up on them is enough, believe me, it is. In fact, it may be more than “just enough” for them — it may be what saves their life.

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Unsplash photo via Alexander Hermansen 

Originally published: September 5, 2017
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