Most of the time, when they open up about what is bothering them, I have no idea how to respond. I feel very helpless.
If you’ve had a close friend who was not in the best of health, mentally, how did you help them? Or if you were the one who needed the help, what did you expect from your friends?
birdiehouse_blu: Just try to get them to do things with you (walk, get coffee) and chat about whatever – just the connection makes a difference.
fakenames101: Be there even when they say to leave them alone, just be there always and dont give up on them.
Talk to them even if they dont talk back to you, just have someone there means a lot.
Hellzapoppin: Just remember that they are the same person they ever were, but their brain now does this stupid thing. It will go up and down, good days and bad. It is not your responsability to cure, this is in fact beyond your power. Just be a friend that understands when they are feeling low. Listen. And be consistant.
The other side of this is: do not be afraid to frankly discuss their depression and challenge negative interpretations. No egg shell treading. Like if they are talking about something that is clearly being seen through a negative lens then you should point out that it sounds like the depression talking.
E.G. an old friend of theirs walks past them on the street, they say hi but the friends blanks them and walks on by without acknowledgement. Depressed people will often think that the person ignored them deliberately, and assume they are having no value to this person and are not worth acknowledging; challenge this. What if they had headphones on? Maybe they have problems themselves and were distracted. Most plausibly they simply did not hear. Again, you are not trying to convince, but give some rational non-depressed perspective. They might be correct in their pov! But it does no good to assume that is the certain truth. It is too easy for depressed people to take the weight of the world on their shoulders.
Speaking of weight on shoulders; this is not for you to bare alone. It is great that you want to help your friend; one if the best ways to do this is to have them create or engage with a wide social group, a network of support. Can you talk to the family for example? Mutual friends? Encourage them and your friend with depression to interact with a variety of people. This includes you. Feeling helpless is something you should discuss with family and other friends (NOT your friend with depression). Being close with your friend leads to empathy, you may even find yourself buying into their pov. Talk to others and understand you are not a therapist, get support yourself.
Lastly do a bit of reading. Steven Illardi and his 6 step program are interesting holistic approaches that highlight the main issues and best courses of action regarding depression. Things like diet, fresh air, social contact, exercise. If you are looking for stuff to do together I encourage this type of activity. Check out his TED talk, he is pretty cool.
Hope this helps.
millenialgorgon: When my friend had bad depression I would meet him everyday, at a time that suited him (I was lucky my work could be flexible). I let him choose the location because he found a lot of places overwhelming. Some days he couldn’t really talk so I asked him if he wanted silence or me to chat. Usually he chose the latter and I’d witter away on my own, as cheerfully as possible. Luckily his meds stabilised after about 6 weeks and he was back to normal. If in doubt ask what he wants but know that indecision might be a huge problem, and if he’s struggling to make any simple choices just make the choice for him to ease up on his stress. If appropriate you might help him find a good councillor too. It’s hard to get a counsellor if you’re too paralysed by depression to make the calls.
Epicfro: Depends on the depression. Sometimes, just being with them helps. Forcing them to do mundane activities, like walking, may not be that helpful. Let them say what they want, just be sure they don’t hurt themselves.
advic98: All I ever wanted was somebody who would listen to me and actually try to sympathise. Somebody who would take me seriously. Also helping me in seeking and getting treatment. Seeking treatment can make you feel embarrassed, so having someone who is supportive and who recognises the benefits will really help them to rebuild themselves.
Reignbowbrite: I really appreciate someone just being there. Not forcing conversation or talking about what’s wrong. Just knowing someone is there is a huge help. Also I hate it when someone asks if I want to go for a walk, when I just want to hide in bed.