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9 Ways to Be a Good Friend to Someone With Depression

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I have been fortunate to have great friends throughout the entire time I have been dealing with my depression — my best friend since middle school, good friends from church and close friends at school. They have all played a part in helping my recovery. Being friends with someone struggling with depression can be difficult. It’s hard to see your friend struggling, especially when you’re not sure how to help them. So, here are some things you can do to be a good friend to someone with depression:

1. Talk to them.

Sometimes, all they need to hear is a few encouraging words.  Tell them you are there for them no matter what. Emphasize you won’t leave them, because many people dealing with depression are afraid of people leaving. Sometimes they will push you away, but it’s usually nothing you did wrong. It’s just hard to socialize sometimes when you’re feeling down.

2. Listen.

Make sure your friend knows you are available to listen without judgment. Don’t listen in order to formulate a response.  Really listen and take in what they are saying. Don’t tell them you understand because it’s impossible to know someone’s exact feelings and experiences, but empathize with them. Tell them that while what they’re going through is difficult, they’re going to get through it. No matter what, don’t act shocked at what they are telling you. It can be difficult to talk about negative emotions and bad experiences, but your shock may make them feel like they are burdening you or that they shouldn’t have told you. A lot of the time, just having someone to talk to about these things will help them feel better.

3. If they are suicidal, tell someone.

I can’t stress this enough. Don’t promise to keep it a secret or not share this information. When their life is in danger, it’s more important to tell a trusted adult who can get them the help they need.

4. Encourage them to seek counseling or therapy.

Talk therapy is one of the most effective forms of treatment. It can be scary to talk to a stranger about things so personal, but it can also be a relief. It’s not going to be easy, but working with a therapist can be really helpful. Professionals have knowledge and insight you won’t be able to offer them as a friend. They are trained to help people in their recovery, and sometimes therapy is necessary to get better.

5. Help them figure out what their coping skills are.

Ask them what their interests are and what they have done that has worked in the past. Encourage them to do things they enjoy and things that benefit them emotionally.

6. Spend time with them.

Even if you’re not interacting with each other, and you’re just doing your own thing. Just being in the same room as someone can be helpful because a symptom of depression is isolation, which is not healthy.

7. Send them positivity quotes or, if they’re religious, bible verses.

Sometimes other people know what to say better than you can.

8. Educate yourself.

If you don’t know about what your friend is dealing with, do research. Learn about depression and mental illness. This will help you understand them better and show them you truly care.

9. Ask them.

Don’t be afraid to ask them what you can do to help. If you’re not sure how to help, they might be able to tell you. Sometimes they might not know, but it can’t hurt to ask. If they know something that can help them, they will be grateful that somebody offered to help.

I encourage everyone who has a friend or family member dealing with depression to try doing these things. It will bring you closer to each other and help them feel less alone. It’s always great to know that someone cares enough to try these things in order to help you get through your depression.

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 reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

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Getty Images photo via Milkos

Originally published: December 28, 2017
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