If you want to be there for a friend who’s been diagnosed with depression, you’re already a great friend. But even when you have really good intentions, it can be hard to know exactly how to help a friend with depression and what to say to a depressed friend. If you’re wondering what to do if your friend has depression, check out our tips for helping a friend with depression, but remember to look after yourself, too.
1. Become informed
Not totally sure what depression is or what it means for your friend? A really great first step in helping your friend is to find out more about depression – which will help you better understand what they’re going through.
2. Be there to listen
If your friend feels like talking, ask them how they’re going. Try asking questions like, “What can I do to help?” and “What do you find helpful?” When you want to bring up a sensitive issue with a friend, try to choose a time and place when you’re both comfortable and relaxed. It’s a good idea to avoid talking to them about it if they’re upset.
3. Take their feelings seriously
If someone is suffering from symptoms of depression, it isn’t possible for them just to ‘snap out of it’, ‘cheer up’ or ‘forget about it’. When you listen to them and validate their feelings by saying things like ‘That must be really hard’ or ‘I’m here when you want to talk’, they’ll know you’re taking their feelings seriously.
4. Let them know about support services
If your friend has already seen a GP or mental health professional, that’s awesome. You could let them know there are also online and email counselling services. You could also recommend the ReachOut NextStep tool, which recommends relevant support options based on what the person wants help with.
5. Respond to emergencies
If you think your friend may be in danger or at risk of hurting themselves or someone else, seek help immediately. Call 000 to reach emergency services and also tell someone you trust.
6. Take care of yourself
It can be incredibly frustrating, exhausting and upsetting to deal with someone who is experiencing depression. You can be there to support your friend only if you look after yourself first. Remember to do the following to make sure your own wellbeing is looked after.
Monitor your mood. You might be really worried about a friend with depression, but it’s important that you also monitor your own mood and stress levels. This could include rating your mood out of 10 each day, to track how you’re doing.
Don’t give up the things you enjoy. Always make sure you’ve got the time to do your favourite things.
Make time to relax. Relaxation is great for helping you to unwind and deal with stress.
Set boundaries. You aren’t going to be able to be there for your friend all of the time. Set some limits around what you’re willing, and not willing, to do. For example, you might decide not to take any phone calls in the middle of the night, or not to miss social events just because your friend isn’t up to going.
Ask for support. It’s important that you’re getting your own emotional support. Talk to people you trust about how you’re feeling.