Helping a friend who has depression

Friends are often the first to know that one of their pals is struggling with depression. A sudden loss of appetite at lunchtime, plummeting grades, or a lack of interest in a favourite extracurricular can indicate that a friend is having a hard time. However, it’s not always easy to know what you can do about it.

Although you can’t fix your friend’s depression, there are little things you can do to make his or her life better.

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Here are 13 ways how:

1. Acknowledge their feelings

Perhaps the most important thing you can do for a friend with depression is to take his or her feelings seriously. Just because you can’t relate doesn’t mean their feelings aren’t real, and depression means she can’t just “snap out of it.” If you’re not sure how to validate emotions you don’t understand, try phrases like “That must be really painful” or “I see how much that hurts you,” rather than trying to fix or dismiss feelings.

2. Be informed

It’s harder to feel empathy toward someone who’s depressed if you don’t understand the underlying cause. Educate yourself on depression and how it’s a medical condition, not a personality flaw.

 3. Say no to stigma

If you hear someone invalidating your friend’s emotions, speak out! Mental health stigma stops teens from asking for help and may increase the risk of suicide, according to Berkeley Wellness.

4. Check in regularly

Depression affects a person’s feelings of self-worth. It doesn’t take long for negative thoughts to take hold, so send regular check-in texts to let a friend know she or he is on your mind.

5. Plan stress-busting activities

Too many teens turn to drugs or alcohol to cope with mental illness, but it’s a poor strategy for stress relief and could lead to a serious substance abuse problem. Take your friend’s mind off depressive thoughts with activities that are fun and healthy, like playing laser tag, starting a pick-up game of basketball, or going on a nature hike.

6. Volunteer together

Volunteering builds up a person’s sense of self-worth, something your friend could probably use right now. Find a local charity you can volunteer with or identify elderly neighbours in need of a hand.

7. Share a new hobby

Since you can’t be with your friend 24/7, why not start a hobby you can work on separately or together? A hobby provides a healthy distraction from negative thoughts and sharing it with a friend makes it harder to succumb to the loss of interest that often plagues people with depression.

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8. Let her play with your dog

Dogs are incredible therapy for depression. Not only do dogs provide the positive feels you need when you’re experiencing the effects of anxiety and depression, but they validate the presence of emotion – whatever it is – without judgment, and without the unfortunate stigmas that exist in some corners when it comes to mental illness. If your friend doesn’t have a dog of her own, why not let her hang out with yours?

9. Send a self-care package

Everyone needs the occasional self-care session, but especially so when they’re dealing with mental health issues. Treat your friend to a care package full of self-care goodies like bath bombs, favourite foods and a great book.

10. Be patient

When your efforts aren’t met with the enthusiasm and gratefulness you were hoping for, it’s important to remember that it’s the depression speaking, not your friend. While you shouldn’t sacrifice your own well-being, it’s important to be patient — even when it’s hard.

11. Speak up if someone suicidal

Talk of suicide should always be taken seriously, especially when you know someone is struggling with depression. If your friend has started talking about ending their life, TeensHealth recommends that you listen without judging and offer reassurance that you care about their wellbeing. If you think your friend might be in danger, stay close to make sure he or she isn’t left alone, according to the website.

12. Talk to someone

Despite the fact that 1 in 20 teens will experience depression, many never tell anyone about it. It’s hard to overcome the fear of judgment, so your friend may need some extra support when it comes to asking for help. Encourage your friend to talk with their parents or another trusted adult so he or she can get the mental health care they need.

13. Be the same great friend you’ve always been

Depression is an isolating disease. Although sufferers often push loved ones away, this is when they need your love and support most. While you can’t fix your friend’s depression (and shouldn’t try to), you can help simply by being there.

Depression is hard to understand if you’ve never experienced it, but you don’t have to have a history with mental illness to be a good friend.

Article written by Jennifer Scott