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How to Talk to a Friend About Their Depression

How to Talk to a Friend About Their Depression

Bringing up a friend or loved one’s depression can be a difficult and awkward situation. It can make both individuals uncomfortable, but this shouldn’t stand in the way of the conversation. Talking to a friend about his depression is both a major and necessary thing to do. Depression is a chronic medical condition that is going to be a significant part of anyone’s life who is affected by it.

Maintaining a close relationship with a friend with depression means being able to talk about it. If a loved one were struggling with cancer, you would obviously want to discuss her feelings about it and help her find treatment options. That is what friendship is about. People do not hide their major life issues from friends because they’re not fun to talk about. Friends share their struggles with other friends so that they can be open and honest and receive the support and encouragement they need to cope.

Helping a Friend with Depression

When it seems like a friend is struggling with depression but has yet to talk about it or seek help, loved ones are often hesitant to approach the subject, not knowing whether it is their place to step in or not. Stepping in to help and offer support is absolutely appropriate for a friend, but it has to be done in the right way. The issue must be addressed with tact and sensitivity, as the goal is to get the individual help. Prior to discussing the issue, it will be more than helpful to learn the ins-and-outs of depression. Know the symptoms. Know the difference between depression and the blues. Understand why depression is a medical condition and how it can affect the moods, tendencies and behaviors of those affected by it.

Symptoms of depression will vary from person-to-person but most include persistent feelings of sadness, emptiness, hopelessness or helplessness, loss of interest or pleasure in activities, hobbies, etc., frequent fatigue and lack of energy, major change in sleep and eating habits, anxiety and restlessness, and these symptoms interfere with one’s everyday life or activities like work or school.[1]

When talking to a friend, treat the matter seriously and show your friend that his wellbeing is important to you. Provide specific examples of symptoms and behaviors that have raised reason for concern. Make it known that depression is a medical condition and not something wrong with him. Talk about the benefits of treatment and how professional treatment can help him manage the disorder and minimize its symptoms. Be open for communication. Listen to a friend’s concerns and encourage his questions. Reiterate that he will not be alone; that he will have a friend to research and meet doctors, psychologist, counselors or mental health providers along with them.

What Are Helpful Things to Say to a Friend with Depression?

One of the most common complaints from people living with depression is that they feel misunderstood and this feeling can lead to isolation. Loved ones can help a friend or family member avoid this sense of isolation and separation by offering their sincere support and staying in the loop on what depression is and what it entails. Knowing what to say and what not to say to individuals with depression can make a huge difference, and listed below are a few helpful guidelines.

  • Let them know you’re there for them. Whether it’s to listen, talk, drive to treatment, pick up the kids from school, etc., let them know that you’re there.
  • Don’t place blame. Depression is an illness. Individuals are not choosing to be sick and feel and behave in a certain way. People don’t need to hear “buck up” or “maybe you should try to focus on being positive”. Depression is not a choice, keep that in mind.
  • Let them express their thoughts and feelings. Avoid judgment and scrutiny. Some feelings and thoughts are going to be frightening, but it is even more frightening for individuals to have to keep these to themselves. Let them talk no matter how uncomfortable it may be. This allows you to identify when the illness is worsening and when the individual may need to seek immediate professional treatment. [2]
  • Ask what you can do and how you can be helpful. Do this often, be a constant reminder that you are not going away; your support and sympathy are ever-present.

Above all, be encouraging through the good times and the bad. Tell them you believe in them, tell them you are proud of them, tell them that although the present may stink, things are going to get better. Be their confidence, self-esteem, and motivator when they cannot see the silver lining.[3]

How Can You Help a Loved One with Depression: Get Information From a Professional

The state of one’s health is a very personal matter, especially when it comes to mental health issues because of the added stigma. This makes it difficult to step in and talk to a loved one about a mental health issue such as depression. You want to help, but don’t know how you should or what you should really say. So what should you do? Talk to a professional. You want to have all the knowledge you can on depression and the options for treatment, and you want the information to be reliable. You want to be able to do more than just talk to your loved one, you want to be able to help and a recovery professional can make all it happen.

Our recovery professionals are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to speak to you and/or your loved ones about depression and other mental health issues. We are happy to share our credible guidance, advice and information about depression and related issues. We can answer questions, address concerns, and connect you to the resources needed to take the next step, whether it be holding an intervention or looking into treatment. For help, call and talk to a recovery professional today on our toll-free helpline.


 

[1] (2015, August 6). Depression: Supporting a Family Member or Friend. The Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/in-depth/depression/art-20045943.

[2] Holmes, Lindsay. (2014, September 11). 7 of the Most Helpful Things You Can Say to Someone with Depression. The Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/09/11/supportive-depression-what-to-say_n_5760916.html.

[3] Grohol, John M. Psy.D. (2014, January 30). 6 Things to Say to Someone with Depression or Who’s Depressed. Psych Central. Retrieved from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2014/01/30/6-things-to-say-to-someone-with-depression-or-whos-depressed/.