6.7% of Americans struggle with depression in a given year.1 Depression is a complex condition that often results in people losing a sense of pleasure and meaning from life. It can also contribute to feelings of worthlessness, guilt, apathy, and sadness.
If you suspect a friend might be struggling with depression, you can be an important ally. While you can’t cure their issue, you can take several steps to support them.
Depression can feel incredibly shameful and embarrassing. If a friend opens up to you about their mental health, avoid making assumptions or becoming critical of their behavior.
For example, it isn’t helpful to say, Your life is so great! There is no reason to be depressed. It also isn’t helpful to say, Other people have it so much worse.
Instead of judging, try to really listen and attune yourself to their feelings. Remember that your friend isn’t choosing to have depression. They’re struggling, and they’re reaching out to you for support.
Check In on Them Regularly
People with depression may withdraw from their loved ones. For example, your friend might stop texting you or hanging out with the group.
If this happens, continue checking in on them. It can be as simple as reaching out with a warm message like, Just thinking of you. I’m always here. Can I get you anything for lunch today? Don’t press if they don’t respond. Instead, consider waiting a few days and reaching out again.
Make an effort to let them know that you are available to listen to them. If they do approach you, validate and acknowledge your gratitude for their trust.
Offer To Do Enjoyable Things Together
Invite them to their favorite restaurant for breakfast. Hang out together and watch an old movie. Offer to take them to get their nails painted.
Pleasant activities won’t eliminate depression, but they can temporarily bring a sense of connection and happiness. Sometimes, people just need a trusting friend to push them out of their darkness to help them feel better.
That said, try not to take it personally if they continue turning down your invitations. If this happens, switch gears and consider asking how you can best support them. They may just need you to listen to them share their feelings.
Discuss Getting Help
Depression is treatable, and your friend does not have to struggle alone. At the same time, even if you are a supportive ally, you are not their therapist or doctor. Despite your best efforts, your friend may need professional guidance during this time.
If you are worried about a friend’s symptoms, it’s essential to share your concerns with a trusted adult. Even if your friend tells you something in confidence, it’s critical that you reach out for help if you suspect a serious issue like self-harm, disordered eating, or suicidal ideation.
At Idaho Youth Ranch, we support teenagers struggling with depression and other related issues. Contact us today to learn more.