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How to support a friend who is feeling depressed

You want to be there for them through thick and thin


Written by SpunOut | View this authors Twitter page and posted in mental-health


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When a friend is experiencing depression, it can be hard to know what to do. They might act differently or just seem ‘off.’ Or, they may be honest about experiencing depression and are open about needing support. Either way, you might be wondering what you can do to help and how you can be there for your friend.

People experiencing depression may have the following symptoms

What you can do to help

Ask and Listen 

Try to be a good listener and encourage your friend to talk. Talking to someone can be a big help. Even if they are not looking for advice, offering to listen to them can help them to share what they are experiencing. Read our article on being a good listener.

Encourage them to seek help 

Encourage your friend to seek help, by going to a doctor or perhaps going to a counsellor. If they are already receiving help, encourage them to keep appointments and be a listening ear if they want to talk about how things are going. If they have not looked for your help, you may want to encourage them to do so. Check out our article on visiting your GP for a mental health problem.

Let them know you support them 

Let your friend know you are there for them anytime they want to vent. Reassure them that they can say the same things over and over and you will still listen. Concentrate on listening as best as you can, rather than offering opinions or advice, as often people who are feeling depressed can find advice (even well intentioned) overwhelming. Having someone to listen to can be a tremendous help. Get tips on how to be a good listener.

Text or call 

Be open to different forms of communication. It may be tough for your friend to express their deeper feelings face to face, so being open to text messages, email or Facebook could be a great way to keep the communication open and your support solid.

Find out more about depression 

Do some reading about depression. There are tons of books on it out there as well as a lot of supportive websites. You might find sites such as Aware and Grow helpful.

Show them love and kindness 

People experiencing mental health difficulties often judge themselves harshly and put themselves down - a lot. Letting them know that they are loved and have lots to offer can show to them that people do not think of them as they do. Remind them that depression is a health issue and not some personal flaw. 

Offer practical support 

Offer to help with everyday tasks that need to be done such as housework or paying bills. A person dealing with depression may sometimes find these types of things overwhelming.

Do enjoyable things together

Even simple things like a trip to the cinema or a walk can bring their spirits up. Remind them how great it is to have a lovely friend like you. If they are drinking a lot of alcohol or taking a lot of drugs, try to encourage them to stop, as excessive use can make depression go from dark to darker.

Go with them to appointments 

Your friend may need to go to a doctor or service to help them with their depression. Sometimes, it can help if a friend or family member goes with them. Find advice on going with your friend to a mental health service.

Look after yourself

Taking care of or even helping a person with depression can be extremely draining and difficult. Try to get help from others who can also support your friend through their depression, so that the pressure is not all just on you. Also, make time for de-stressing activities such as exercise and spending time with friends.

When your friend has depression, there are certain things you could say that might be really hurtful to them - read about some of these things here.

I think my friend is suicidal

If you are concerned that your friend is suicidal, don't hesitate to talk to them about your concerns. Find out here what to do if you're concerned your friend is suicidal.

Feeling overwhelmed or want to talk to someone right now?

If you are a customer of the 48 or An Post network or cannot get through using the ‘50808’ short code please text HELLO to 086 1800 280 (standard message rates may apply). Some smaller networks do not support short codes like ‘50808’.

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Published Decem­ber 19th2012
Last updated June 25th2018
Tags depression mental health wellbeing
Can this be improved? Contact editor@spunout.ie if you have any suggestions for this article.
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