Depression affects thousands of people everyday. An estimated 9% percent of youth aged 12 - 17 (approximately about 2.2 million) and 7.7% of adults age 18 or older experience at least one major depressive episode during the course of a year (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Office of Applied Studies).
When a friend is feeling down for a long period of time or is behaving in an unusual way, it can be hard to know what you can do.
If your friend has mentioned suicide, it’s important you tell someone who can help so that your friend can remain safe. Check out the When your friend is talking about suicide fact sheet for more info.
Suggestions for helping
Like other illnesses, everyone’s experience of depression is different. It’s important to remember that helping someone who is not ready to recognize they need help may be difficult, and the decision and responsibility for them to get help is ultimately theirs.
There are some things you can do that may help you to help your friend who is feeling depressed:
Offer your support. It can be scary when someone realizes they need help. Let your friend know you’re worried about them, and that you’re there to listen without judging them.
If your friend talks to you about how they’re feeling, it might help if you acknowledge that they’re sad and that things might seem hard, while at the same time try and remain positive and encouraging.
If you are having difficulty speaking about it with your friend, you might start with sentences such as ”I’ve noticed you’ve seemed a bit down,” or “Lately, I’ve noticed you haven’t been interested in hanging out with your friends or enjoying things like you used to.”
Choosing when to talk. Timing can be an important part of talking to someone about sensitive stuff. If possible, try to choose a time when you are both open to talking about serious subjects.
Avoid talking with them during an argument or if they are upset - you may end up getting a bad reaction and distancing them.
Don’t ask them to cheer up or forget about it. When people are sad, our first reaction may be to tell them to cheer up or forget about it because everything will be fine. If someone is depressed this may be impossible.
Asking someone to cheer up may appear as if you are not taking their feelings seriously and have a negative effect.
Get informed. Finding out more about depression might help you better understand the reasons for the reactions you might receive and what your friend might be going through. Check out the Depression - causes, symptoms and types fact sheet.
Encourage them to get professional support.
If your friend is depressed, it is important that they seek help. Your local doctor is a good first step. Mental health professional, such as psychologists, counselors, psychiatrists, and social workers, are trained in assisting young people with mental health difficulties and could also be helpful.
If you feel comfortable doing so, you might offer to go with your friend when they speak to someone about how they are feeling. It might also be helpful to forward them some of the fact sheets and related stories on ReachOut. You, or they, can share your struggle and get support 24/7 in the ReachOut <a href="http://bit.ly/1kJEwzK>forums here</a>.</p> <p>Check out the <a data-cke-saved-href=" http:="" us.reachout.com="" facts="" factsheet="" confidentiality"="">Confidentiality fact sheet and the Get Help section for more information about what these people do and how they can help.
Give it time. It might take time for your friend to accept help, either from you or someone else. It might also take some time to find a treatment that works best for them.
Take care of yourself
When you are worried about a friend you might feel stressed or overwhelmed and forget to look after yourself. It is important that you take care of how you are feeling. Speak to someone you trust, such as a family member, friend or counselor. Having time away from your friend can be an important way to help you relax. Make sure you spend some time doing what you enjoy. You may want to play a sport, hang out with other friends, listen to music, or go for a walk.
You are not responsible for your friend
It’s also important to remember that even though you can offer support, you are not responsible for the actions or behavior of your friend. If they aren’t willing to help themselves it is not your fault.
Concerned your friend might be suicidal?
If you are concerned that your friend might be suicidal or you would like to have someone with whom you could share your concerns, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or youth helpline Your Life Your Voice at 1-800-448-3000. Both are available 24/7 and have trained volunteers ready to listen. If you’re looking for more information on signs that your friend may be suicidal, check out nineoutoften.org.