A few weeks ago I wrote What NOT to do/say when your friend has depression and it has become one of my most read blog posts in that time. I hope that these posts are helping to guide some of you readers who have friends dealing with depression. As a disclaimer, these things might not work for everyone. But, I have found them to be particularly helpful to me.
Here is the followup post that I promised all about what to do and say when your friend has depression.
1. Call them, make plans with them, drop by their house, take them out
A common trait of those with depression is withdrawal from friends/family. They lose interest in activities. They spend a lot of time alone. Instead of letting them stew in their sorrow, get them out of the house! Call them up and make some plans to get coffee together. If they refuse? Go to them. Knock on the door with take-out coffee and a couple fancy doughnuts. Touching base with your friend is like pulling them out of that deep well and bringing them back to reality. It is probably one of the most effective tactics in helping your friend.
2. Help them with little tasks that may seem overwhelming to them
When I’m in a low place, I have a hard time keeping my apartment clean. Dishes pile up, cat hair tumbleweeds blow across the floor- it all seems very overwhelming to have to tackle on my own. I recently had a friend spend a couple days with me on a flight layover in Winnipeg. We spent a day cleaning and organizing my apartment together. We even rearranged my furniture for the new year. Such a tiny favour with HUGE impact. Immediately, it made life seem a little easier and took that burden off my shoulders. So, help your friend with their laundry because they likely have no clean underwear left and the trip up and down the stairs to the laundry room is just a task they don’t have the energy to do at the moment.
(If only I ever experienced mania)
3. Ask questions, brainstorm solutions
Listening is a big part of being a good friend. But, don’t just listen- ask questions and work together to find solutions to how your friend can feel better. Ask things like “what have you done in the past to feel better”, from there you open doors into how they can feel better again. They might forget how they’ve climbed out of their hole in the past, I’ve found my memory to be not great when I’m in a low. Ask them if they know what their triggers are- stress, a fight with family, a break-up, diet change, maybe it’s a vitamin deficiency, who knows. Ask questions and remind them of past times where they felt good or events where they enjoyed themselves. See if you can figure out some ways together to make those feelings come back.
4. When they say something like “don’t worry about it”, you should worry about it.
So, your friend mentions needing to ask you something or needing to talk about something… but, you’re about to head out the door to grab some groceries. Your friend won’t want to be an imposition or a nuisance, so they’ll say “oh, okay. Don’t worry about it. I’ll catch you later.” At this point, you should pick up the phone and call them. Make sure everything is okay. Groceries can wait until tomorrow. Tonight, you eat canned soup and toaster leavin’s and listen to your friend.
5. Let them know they are good enough and that they are loved.
When you’re depressed, your mind tells you lies. It tells you that you’re a bad person who doesn’t deserve love or friends. It tells you you’re ugly and dumb and that’s why you’re alone. Tell your friend they are loved- by you, by family, by cowokers. Let them know they are good enough to be your friend, to be a friend to many. Your friend might not always believe you, but that’s okay. Hug them, rub their back lightly- sometimes touch tells someone a lot more than words every will.