“I was in the coffee shop with my friend, that one sunny hot day, thinking that the weather is like government, always in the wrong, when he asked me, How can I help someone with depression?
At first, I wasn’t sure what to say, he looked serious that I had to double take that look, then I realized that he wants to be there for someone who’s dealing with depression or anxiety, and knew immediately that he’s already being a good friend.
I wasn’t totally sure what depression or anxiety are that day, but I instantaneously shouted; “talk to him/her!” because the only thing I was certain about, is that we can never underestimate the seriousness of a depression, it drains a person’s energy, optimism, and motivation..
“I tried to”- he responded, “but it’s really hard to know what to say”.
It might be difficult for a depressed person to accept your help wherefore it’s important to choose a time and place when you’re both comfortable and there’s some privacy. But the objective is not to fix their problem or tell them what to do, even if you have suggestions to help solve their problem, but to try and see things from your friend’s perspective and show true concern for their suffering. In other words, LISTEN! Let your friend know you’re there for them, that you are there to listen, not to give advice; And at first he probably may not feel like opening so keep asking open questions (without being pushy) and expressing your concern.
I then explained: “ Finding a way to start a conversation about depression with your loved one is always the hardest part, but it’s the best way to start the helping process. You can always ask sincere, open-ended questions like, “I wanted to check in with you because you have seemed pretty down lately” or “I have been feeling concerned about you lately” So the other person can feel supported, comforted and safe.
Clearly, listening to your friend and helping them does not mean that you should approach them as they are your patient or someone who needs to be fixed, this might make them feel embarrassed and belittled, and can make them as well close themselves off to you.
Back to my home, I realized that you can’t fix your friend’s problems, but there are other things you can do. Undoubtedly, friends and family can play a very important role in someone recovering from depression, and that it’s my duty to learn more about how to deal with that and then share my knowledge hoping that I can help anyone directly or indirectly.
After reading a lot of articles and books, I came up with some important points:
- Don’t judge and most of all avoid saying: “This is all in your head.” , “Try to look on the bright side.” or “Everyone goes through tough times.” It’s just not that simple. Sometimes solutions are unnecessary, so don’t feel you have to provide one.
- Your friend isn’t unmotivated or lazy: they’re probably having a rough time, confused or lost, Have patience as you encourage them to take the first small steps to their recovery.
- If things became out of your hands, Support them to get help: it’s important to reassure them that it’s all right to ask for help, but remember that you can’t force anyone to get help if they don’t want it.
- Don’t take it personally : The depression is the one talking to you, not your friend. Depression makes it difficult for a person to connect on a deep emotional level with anyone even their family and closest friends so try not to take it personally.
The pain of depression can cause people to withdraw but a supportive friendship can make a huge difference in the depressed person’s recovery.
However, It’s not easy dealing with a friend or family member’s depression. And if you neglect your own health, it can become overwhelming. Your mental health is important too, Take care of yourself and your beloved ones.
Written by Ahmed Belaid.