Does your mate look like they are struggling? Supporting a friend with depression

18 September 2020 , Posted by Rachel Bate & Julie Loveny

Are you worried about a friend who has been sad or withdrawn? Everyone experiences times where they feel down, but if you or someone you know has been consistently miserable and unhappy for more than two weeks it may be a sign of depression. If you have a close friend living with depression, your support can make all the difference.

Friends, family and mental health workers play a big role in recovering from depression, and letting your mate know you’re there for them may be a large source of strength for them. As a friend, it can be difficult to know how to approach the subject, but here are a few tips:

– Have a conversation: talk to your friend about how they’ve been feeling, tell them why you are concerned (their mood, their behaviour), and let them know you care and support them. Try starting with “How are you doing? Is there anything you would like to chat about?”, or “You haven’t seemed yourself lately, is everything okay?” Try and talk to them in a stress-free environment with limited distractions, a place that is comfortable and private for you both.

– Listen and respect their wishes: Make sure you actively listen to what they have to say and show that you understand and respect what they have told you. Ask follow up questions such as “why do you think you’ve been feeling that way?” Additionally, if they are not ready to talk, do not push them to. Be patient, and let them know you are fine with it and continue to be supportive.

– Build your own knowledge: try to get informed and educate yourself and you will find you can better understand what your friend might be going through. It can also help you find the best way to show your support for them. Try these links if you are interested in knowing more about depression:

– Encourage them to seek support: it’s important if your friend has depression that they seek help, and a good initial step would be for them to talk to their GP. If they are not comfortable with face-to-face counselling they may be more open to online and phone counselling services. They might not be ready to seek help either, and while it is good to illustrate the supports and services available to them, try not to push them to get help and respect their decision.

Supporting a friend with depression can be a nerve-wracking experience, you might worry you could say the wrong thing, or they won’t want to open up to you. But sometimes knowing you’re there or having a chat is enough to feel supported by a friend, and may assist them in seeking help. Also, it’s important to remember you aren’t there to fix everything, you are an amazing support for your friend but you do not have to feel like you should be able to resolve every problem.

The last thing I would like to highlight is self-care, make sure you care for yourself when caring for others, and seek support for yourself where needed. Set boundaries with your friend if necessary so you can still support them and balance your time to reflect your mental health. To support your friend is a great thing, and being there for them while they are experiencing a hard time will show them how much you appreciate and care for them, but always remember to put your own mental health first.