How to Support a Friend with Depression

Someone else’s depression is not something any person can fix. Every year, some 7% of adults in Canada will experience major depression. The likelihood of you knowing at least one person going through depression right now is fairly high.

What you can do as a friend is offer your support, and there are many ways to do that. It’s important to remember that not all depression is the same. Symptoms can vary.

Here is how to support a friend with depression.

Start a conversation with them

The easiest way to support a friend with depression is to let them know you’re there. Have a conversation with them. It can be about anything.

Ask them what’s on their mind. Share your concern that they seem a bit down, and ask them if there’s anything they want to chat about. Asking someone how they feel gives them a platform to share their feelings if or when they want to.

Practice ‘Active Listening’ techniques

Your friend may not want or be ready to talk about anything but if they are, practice active listening. Ask questions to get more information instead of assuming you understand what they mean.

Validate their feelings by saying things like, “That sounds tough. I’m sorry to hear that.” Show empathy. If possible, these conversations are best had in person. Not by text or on social media. If you can’t be there in person, have a video chat. Face-to-face is important.

Support them in finding help

A friend with depression may not know where to look for support. If they don’t and are interested in counselling or therapy, that might be something you can help them with.

You can search for therapists online easily, make phone calls, and help them arrange their first session. Encourage your friend if they’re having a hard time with it. If they’re in a depression, they might not be capable of getting to that first session without you.

Learn about depression

Some of us have never gone through depression before. Even if you have, you may not necessarily understand what’s going on with your friend and how depression impacts them.

Ask your friend about their symptoms. Do some research online about the symptoms, causes, treatments, and the like. You may discover something that can help. Familiarize yourself with what your friend is going through.

Support them in continuing therapy

Show an interest in helping your friend get better. Support them in going to therapy or using online psychotherapy services. If they’re prescribed medication, encourage them to continue taking it.

Be supportive if there are unpleasant side effects. If they come to you and say, “I think I’m going to cancel my therapy this week,” encourage them to go. Talk with them. Keep your friend on the right path towards overcoming this difficult period in their life.

Help with everyday tasks

There are many ways to show kindness to a friend with depression, from helping with groceries to helping them pay their bills, bringing them a fresh-cooked dinner, mowing their lawn, or other tasks. Some people may not be receptive to this type of help.

If you suspect they won’t be, leave it as an open invitation and say, “Let me know if there’s anything I can help with. I’m here.” An hour here. An hour there. Help with a minute task; a little company can make someone feel valued and cared for.

Invite them outside their home

A friend with depression may have a hard time making or keeping plans. So invite them out. They’re not going to join you every time but invite them. Invite them to a movie, out to a community event or a concert, or any activity. Throw a get-together with friends at home or a BBQ.

Even if they don’t come, continue inviting them. It’s easy to feel isolated when going through a depression. Inviting them out is doing your part to try and get them in new surroundings and hopefully having fun.

Be patient with your friend

Depression isn’t an easy fix. There is no quick ‘fix.’ It’s going to take time. The treatment can be slow, with a lot of trial and error, and some people will have relapses and struggle with depression for months and years.

Your friend may continue to have symptoms. Try not to put pressure on them to “get better.” Avoid making jokes about their depression. Try to be sensitive to them, kind, and patient.

Support yourself as well

It’s very easy to feel burned out at a certain point if all you’re doing is caring for a sick friend. You might feel like dropping everything and being by their side to support them is needed, but you still need to set aside the time to take care of your own needs. You need to support yourself.

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