After the Covid-19 Pandemic, I’m sure we all know someone suffering from depression. Honestly, even if you think you don’t know someone who struggles with depression, you probably do. A lot of people’s mental health has taken a nosedive in recent years, and it sucks. This is why I want to talk about some ways you can support your depressed friends.
*Disclaimer: I am not a psychologist, and I am speaking from my own experiences with mental health and neurodivergence.
Let Them Know You’re There For Them
The single most important thing for anyone struggling with depression or their mental health, in general, is knowing they have people to support them. Really, that’s it.
Of course, there’s a lot more that will help them, but knowing that people love and care about them will ease their burden so much. It won’t make the problems go away or relieve the numbness that some experience, but it does help.
Knowing that someone is there for you even on your darkest days makes it much more appealing to make it to the good days.
Don’t Force It
When someone struggles with depression, there’s no way to magically make them feel better. You’ll need to work with them if you want to be there for them.
If you aren’t sure what to do, you can always ask what they need. Ideally, you can give them options on how you show your support. Then let them pick what feels best to them and go with it. Put them in the driver’s seat and show them with your actions that you will abide by their decisions.
Supporting someone through a mental health crisis isn’t easy, and the best way to help them through it will be different for everyone. It also can depend on many factors like how they’re feeling, how close your relationship is, etc.
What you should do
If you’re struggling to find ways to support your depressed friends, try offering them a few of these options.
Suggest a low-energy activity they enjoy. Things like watching a movie at home or taking silly internet quizzes about what kind of cheese you are are good ideas. They can participate in something without leaving the house or even getting out of bed if it’s a really bad day.
Offer to sit with them and listen to anything they want to say, free of judgment. Lend them an ear and actively listen to whatever they’re willing to share with you. Let them know they can talk when they’re ready. Even if they don’t take you up on it, it can help to know the option is there if they need it.
Let them know you’re happy to sit with them and do nothing together. Quality time together can be a huge help, and how you spend that quality time is up to you.
Talk about something else to let them feel a sense of normalcy. There’s a fine line between brushing something under the rug and acknowledging it but choosing to focus on something else. Low-stakes topics like gossip or celebrity crushes can help them have some space to breathe and quietly process things on their own time.
If it comes down to it and you don’t think you’re properly supporting your depressed friends alone, seek professional help. Don’t try to handle it all on your own and shoulder it on your own. There’s only so much you can do by yourself. If it helps, you can suggest seeing a counselor or therapist with your friend. If they’d rather go alone, that’s great, but it can sometimes help to have a hand to hold through the process.
What you shouldn’t do
Hopefully, you’ve got some idea of how to offer support to your friends now, which is great. Now let’s also talk about some things you shouldn’t do when trying to support someone.
Do NOT make promises you can’t keep. Usually, when someone asks you to promise them something, it’s easy enough to do. When depression comes into play, though, it’s not in your best interest or your friends to make promises that could put them or someone else in danger, like promising not to tell anyone if they’ve been having suicidal thoughts.
It’s just better to be upfront with your friend that you have their best interest at heart, which could mean going against what they want occasionally.
One of the hardest things about supporting your depressed friends is that you can’t force them to feel better, and you can’t force them to talk to you either. Sometimes it will feel like there’s nothing you can do at all. That feeling of helplessness is really scary especially when you’re worried about your friend’s safety.
When you’re trying to support someone, it’s crucial that you make it feel like the support is on their terms. Not yours. You want them to know you’re there when they need you, and you always will be. Avoid trying to make them open up or forcing them to do things they aren’t comfortable with. It isn’t going to make them feel like they can trust you. It could even make it harder for them to go to you when they need someone.
At The End of the Day
Navigating depression is incredibly tough. It’s never going to be easy, and everyone will have their own experiences, thoughts, and feelings.
If you’re looking for ways to support someone with more short-term problems, we have a blog for that too.
For more resources and information about how to help someone who has a mental illness, SAMHSA has a lot of great articles and can help you find local clinics/ therapists. The national crisis line is another easily accessible resource available in the US. Just call or text 988.
How would you support someone suffering from depression?