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
- Feeling sad, hopeless, or like they don’t care
- Finding it hard to sleep or hard to get up in the morning
- Appetite or weight changes – the person’s appetite may decrease or it may increase
- Finding it hard to concentrate – this may affect how they get on in school and work
- Suicidal thoughts, urges or attempts
- Feeling angry or irritable
- Feeling anxious
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. For tips on how to be a good listener, click here.
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. For advice on going with your friend to a mental health service, click here.
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?
- Get anonymous support 24/7 with our text message support service
- Connect with a trained volunteer who will listen to you, and help you to move forward feeling better
- Free-text SPUNOUT to 50808 to begin
- Find out more about our text message support service