Do you notice that your friend has been behaving differently lately? Maybe they’re not eating as much, they’ve lost interest in things they used to enjoy, or they’re just withdrawn and seem sad all the time.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 3.4 percent of American adults suffer from depression yearly.
And these numbers continue to rise — in 2017, the World Health Organization reported that depression is now the leading cause of disability worldwide. So, it’s possible that your friend is dealing with depression.
Before you consider a treatment like detox centers, here are nine things you can do to show them you care:
1. Listen to them.
People who struggle with depression often feel like they’re not being heard. In fact, one of the main symptoms of depression is feeling isolated and alone.
Make sure you’re listening to your friend when they talk to you. Put away any distractions, make eye contact, and use affirmative phrases like “I see” or “I understand how you feel.” Showing that you’re fully present will let them know you care about what they have to say.
Sitting down and listening to your friend—without interrupting or offering advice—can be helpful. Try to understand how they’re feeling and what they’re going through.
2. Ask how you can help.
If your friend is dealing with depression, they may not know how to ask for help. But that doesn’t mean they don’t need it.
One of the best things you can do is ask how you can help. Whether it’s running errands, listening to them vent, or just being there for moral support, allowing them to tell you what they need will let them know that you care and want to help in any way you can.
If they don’t know how to answer, you can offer specific suggestions, like grabbing coffee or lunch, going for a walk, or seeing a movie together. The key is just to let them know that you’re available and willing to help out.
3. Don’t try to fix their problems.
Many people make the mistake of thinking they need to have all the answers to help a friend with depression. But the truth is, you don’t need to have any solutions—you just need to be there for them.
Depression can make people feel helpless and like their problems are insurmountable. Just being understanding and supportive can go a long way in helping your friend feel better.
So, instead of trying to “fix” their problems, just listen and offer your moral support. They’ll appreciate knowing that you’re on their side and willing to help them through whatever they’re going through.
4. Encourage them to seek professional help.
While you should never try to diagnose your friend, you can encourage them to seek professional help if you’re concerned about their depression.
Whether it’s therapy, medication, or both, there are a number of treatments, like holistic treatment center for depression, that can be effective in managing depression. So, if your friend is open to the idea, you can help them find a mental health professional in their area.
You can also offer to go with them to their first appointment or even just sit down and talk with them about your own experiences with mental health professionals. Just let them know that you support their decision to seek help and that you’re there for them every step of the way.
How do you bring up the topic of treatment with your friend?
If you’re concerned that your friend may be dealing with depression, you can bring up the topic by saying something like, “I’ve noticed that you’ve been withdrawn and seem sad all the time. I’m wondering if you’re okay.”
You can also ask if they’ve considered seeking professional help. If they’re open to the idea, you can offer to go with them to their first appointment or help them find a mental health professional in their area.
5. Suggest healthy coping mechanisms.
Sometimes, struggling with depression can cause people to turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms, like alcohol or drugs. If you’re worried that your friend is using substances as a way to cope, it’s important to talk to them about it.
Start the conversation by expressing your concern and letting them know that you want to help them find healthier ways to cope. Then, you can suggest some healthy coping mechanisms, like exercise, journaling, or deep breathing exercises.
You can also offer to do these activities with them. For example, if they’re struggling with anxiety, you can suggest going for a walk together or doing some yoga poses. Just let them know that you’re there for them and want to help them find healthy ways to cope with their depression.
6. Help them develop a support system.
One of the most effective ways to help a friend with depression is to help them develop a support system. This can include family, friends, therapists, or even a support group for people with depression.
Encourage your friend to reach out to their loved ones and let them know what they’re going through. And if they’re uncomfortable talking to their family or friends, you can offer to be their sounding board.
You can also suggest that they join a support group for people with depression. This can give them an outlet to share their experiences and connect with others who are going through similar things. Some great online options include the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance and the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
7. Check in with them often.
Sometimes, it’s the little things that can make the biggest difference. So, even if you don’t have a lot of time to spare, checking in with your friend often helps them feel supported.
You can send them a quick text message or call just to see how they’re doing. Take some time out of your day to listen to them and let them know that you care.
And if you can’t be there for them in person, you can still offer your support from afar. There are plenty of ways to stay connected, even if you’re not in the same place, so take advantage of technology and stay in touch as much as possible.
8. Promote positive self-talk.
The way we talk to ourselves can have a big impact on our mental health. And for people dealing with depression, negative self-talk can be a big problem.
If you notice that your friend is being hard on themselves, it’s important to encourage them to practice positive self-talk. This means replacing negative thoughts with more realistic and positive ones.
For example, if your friend is beating themselves up for not getting out of bed today, you can remind them that it’s okay to take things one day at a time is okay. And if they feel like they’ll never get better, you can remind them of how far they’ve come and how much strength they have.
Avoid phrases like “just snap out of it” or “cheer up.” These comments can make your friend feel invalidated and like you don’t understand what they’re going through. Instead, focus on promoting positive self-talk and helping your friend be more gentle with themselves.
9. Avoid giving advice unless asked.
Your heart is in the right place when you want to give your friend advice. But unless they’ve specifically asked for it, it’s best to avoid giving unsolicited advice.
People with depression often feel like they’re not being heard or understood. So, offering unsolicited advice can make them feel like you’re not listening to them.
Instead of giving advice, it’s important to just be there for your friend. Listen to them and validate their experiences. And if they want your advice, let them know that you’re happy to help in any way you can.
Depression can be a crippling mental illness, but your friend doesn’t have to suffer it alone. There are plenty of ways how to help a depressed friend.
These tips can make a big difference in your friend’s mental health journey, from promoting positive self-talk to checking in often. So, don’t hesitate to reach out and offer your support. It could mean the world to them.