Over 17 million adults in the United States struggle with depression according to the National Institute of Mental Health. This is over 7% of the U.S. population! Chances are, you may know someone who is struggling with depression. As challenging and overwhelming as it may seem, supporting a friend while they struggle with depression is an important step in their journey towards recovery.
Symptoms of depression can vary from person to person but are often characterized by a sudden change in behavior or mood. Common symptoms include:
- Losing interest in things that they once cared about such as work or hobbies
- Changes in mood such as seeming down or irritable more often than usual
- Expressing feels of hopelessness or helplessness
- Complaints of feeling exhausted, drained, or experiencing physical pains such as headaches and stomach aches
- Sleeping more or less than usual
- Eating more or less than usual and gaining or losing weight
- Experiencing a general loss of energy
- Drinking more often or abusing drugs
How to help
If your friend is experiencing any of these signs of depression, showing your friend that you are there for them and you care about them is a great place to start. These steps will not cure their depression overnight, but they can help your friend begin their journey to overcoming negative thoughts, regaining a positive outlook, and enjoying life again.
The first step in supporting your friend who is struggling with depression is to listen to what they have to say. Let your friend know that you are there for them no matter what and that you are open to listening about what is going on in their life. Practice active listening skills by asking open-ended questions and validating their feelings.
Examples of questions that you could ask your friend include:
- “I have noticed that you seem down lately and wanted to ask you if there is anything going on that you’d like to talk about?”
- “I wanted to check in with you because you seem different lately. Is anything going on?”
- “When did you begin feeling like this?”
- “What can I do to support you right now?”
- “Have you thought about asking for help?”
Encourage them to get help and support them with their treatment
Depression can make reaching out for help even more difficult, as it can drain motivation and make small tasks seem unmanageable. Help your friend take the important step of reaching out to mental health professionals by offering to help find a doctor or therapist. You can even offer to drive with them to their first visit and support them as they take this important first step.
As the treatment process is a journey, there will be good days and bad days. On bad days when your friend may feel like cancelling their therapy appointment or skipping a dose of medication, be sure to offer encouragement to stay on track.
Help your friend in any way they might need
Seemingly easy tasks such as household chores, grocery shopping, or paying bills can be overwhelming for people struggling with depression and these tasks can start to pile up. Offer to help your friend in any way you can – whether that means dropping off groceries, helping them clean their kitchen, or even helping them form a to-do list. Having company will make these tasks less daunting and will help your friend out more than you might think.
Set boundaries with yourself and check in with yourself
Be careful not to stretch yourself too thin when supporting your friend through their depression. Remember to take care of your own needs and be clear about your availability when it comes to supporting your friend. Practicing self care is an essential step of the process, as your own wellbeing is a priority.
Continue to reach out to your friend and be patient with them
People struggling with depression may not be feeling up to attending social events or get-togethers, and a pattern of declined invites can lead to fewer plans and further isolation. Whether or not your friend accepts your invitations, be sure to continue to reach out regularly in a low-pressure way. Let them know that you understand that they want space but you are excited for them to hangout when they feel ready.
A cure to depression likely will not happen overnight and everyone’s journey is different. There will most likely be good days and bad days. However, by offering your support to your friend, you are helping to make the journey a little easier.
Thousands in the Lehigh Valley struggle with depression every day, but thanks to the TMS Center of the Lehigh Valley, they are not alone in their fight. Contact us today to learn more about our treatments and meet with our dedicated team of professionals.