Everyone experiences lows that leave them feeling very sad, but these usually go away after a couple of days. When a person has depression, it affects all aspects of their life. They will lose the motivation to do any activity because of decreased energy and fatigue. They will experience emotions such as hopelessness, helplessness, frustration, fear, and sadness. They either lose sleep or are always sleeping, they over-eat or lose appetite, experience aches or pains that don’t go away even with treatment, and have thoughts of suicide.
If you have a friend who is struggling with depression, you might feel angry with yourself because you don’t know how to help them. It starts with knowing the symptoms and acknowledging that depression is a serious medical condition.
Being part of a community or a book club in your local area can help. But here are some of the things that you can do to help a friend who has depression.
Try to learn more about depression
The first thing you can do is to learn more about depression. There are many thing about depression that a lot of people misunderstand. For instance, if a depressed person is laughing and is generally having a good day, it doesn’t mean that they are cured. It just shows that there is fluctuation to symptoms, it doesn’t mean they’ve stopped being depressed.
Show your support by being there for them
One of the best things you can do for your friend is to make them feel that you’ll always be there for them. It’s going to be hard, but even the smallest gestures can mean the world to them. You can sit right next to them, offering a hand to hold while they’re expressing their feelings. You don’t even need to say anything, just show how important they are and how much you’re rooting for them and supporting them in looking for a way to be better. Other things you can do includes leaving them little notes of love and encouragement, bringing them their favorite comfort food, and so on.
Don’t belittle their pain and invalidate their feelings
Our default setting whenever we know someone who has problems is to tell them to snap out of it and start seeing that this is an opportunity to be stronger and that things will all become better. These are dangerous words to say to someone who is depressed. It’s as if you’re saying that they chose to be depressed, and by belittling they experience and invalidating their feelings, you’re shaming them. You should be able to understand that depression is not something you choose to become and that these words you think are encouraging are actually harmful and hurtful to the depressed person.
Avoid giving them advice
Another one of our default settings is giving advice to someone who is having a bad time. However, giving out advice is something you should avoid when dealing with a depressed friend. It’s true, they do need someone to guide them, but there are other ways of doing that aside from giving advice. Try asking them what you can do to help them feel better so that they can take this opportunity to ask you for your help. Giving them unsolicited advice might make them feel inadequate.
Be patient with them
A depressed person will have a hard time with making connections to the people around them. At times they will say something that might be hurtful to you. It’s important to understand that this is the depression at work, as much as possible, don’t take their words personally when they’re lashing out. It just shows that they need you to be there more than ever.
Pray for them
If you’re not sure of what to do to help your friend who is struggling with depression, the best thing you can do is to help him or her by praying for them. Prayer is the best you can do and let God do His work.
One other important thing to understand is that you can’t fix their depression. A lot of people are forgetting that it’s not their job to a depressed person’s rescuer because it really isn’t up to you. To help a friend with depression, you need to take steps in understanding the mental illness first, and then letting them lead you so that you can help them better.