Six Ways you can help a friend with depression

Blogger Paul Brook gives six tips to help a friend with depression

It took me a while to tell all my friends about my depression. It wasn’t something I really wanted to talk about at first. It was only when I started to open up about it that I realised how much talking helped. 

My friends just accepted it, and without making a big deal about it they let me know they were looking out for me. I began to find out about other people’s experiences, which helped too.

Here are six ways you can support a friend who’s going through depression, based on what I’ve valued most. 

  1. Treat them as normal. Don’t be wary of them, don’t fuss over them, don’t pity them, don’t pussyfoot around them. Depression is an alienating experience, and a little normality in an alien world can be very welcome. Your friend is still the same person, so you should be the same with them
  2. Keep inviting them to things. Don’t leave them out because you think they won’t feel up to it. They might not, and that’s fine, but I was always very grateful for friends who remembered me and tried to include me, no matter how many times I turned down their offers. Just remember to reply to your friend’s messages. I felt paranoid with my depression and would worry if someone didn’t reply. I just assumed they were annoyed with me. On the times I did say yes to an invitation, it was good to get out and have a much-needed laugh or a change of scene. And following on from that…
  3. Help your friend get out of the house. Daytime outings – even a simple walk – might be better than evenings. I struggled to sleep, so in the mornings I was like a zombie and by the evening I was shattered, so afternoons were the best time to get out. I was also low on confidence, and the idea of going out somewhere busy often felt overwhelming, so somewhere quiet in the open air suited me best.
  4. Ask them how they are, and listen. It can be a call, a text, a message on Facebook, whatever works best, but keep in touch. Don’t be scared to talk – it’s important. It doesn’t have to be a deep, soul-searching, psychologically probing conversation. On the whole, that would just be weird and hard work for both of you. Just a simple “How are you doing?” is just right.
  5. Don’t try to cure them. A bag of sweets, some daft jokes or a trip out somewhere is much better than a heavy-handed dose of amateur therapy, or badly judged motivational pep talks. Saying ‘Could be worse’, ‘Man up’ or ‘Snap out of it’ will do far more harm than good, so just don’t. Ever. If you’re not sure how you can help, just ask them.
  6. Be patient. Depression can be a stubborn companion and recovery can take many months. You might see no improvement for a long time. It affects people in lots of different ways – for example memory loss, so don’t hold it against them if they forget something.

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Comments

bravo

Loved your blog Paul, such good advise for a lot of people in your situation. I'm a bipolar sufferer and can totally connect with what you're saying so true it is good to talk. Good on you I know it's especially hard for you men too.

Bravo

Thank you very much, Sharon

depression anxiety ocd + panic attacks

i feel so alone got nobody to talk to my boyfriend + mum are so ignorant + unsupportive i hate them more each day i carnt trust anybody because of the past i basically shut myself off to the outside world as much as i can + right now my head is aching me so nuch its so heavy i feel like its just to much effort to lift it up wish i could sleep forever i only do what i have 2 little the better im just a waste of space honestly im disgusting carnt snap out of it + carnt be bothered im done with trying so i now become really selfish + thats pathetic to me

Very true

When you feel low, the last thing you think you need (like a pint with a close mate, a trip to the cinema/theatre, meal out etc) is probably actually the first thing you need. A really good mate will spot that, get you out of your shell for a while and make sure you feel comfortable doing so. You do feel tender and sensitive, paranoid, insecure and some gentle reassurance goes a long way..

Very true

Thanks Damian. I often found that the things that would in theory do me the most good were the things I least felt like doing. Paul

re pauls blog

i think you missed something 7 help them to get help help them to communicate thier needs fears and deppression to doctors crisis teams speacialist help them to get the right care in the right place for them. during my illness i found it so hard to talk to these specialists i feared seclusion section and the authority they had over me, i needed someone i couldtrust to spek on my behalf as i felt so silenced and alone.

Bravo from me too

As ever, so articulate, courageous and sensitive, Paul. Especially no 5. You just 'keep on keeping on', as they say. And do whatever you can do and be whatever you can be (no more and no less) on any one day. With great respect. Philippa x

Very good points raised here.

Very good points raised here. I am bad at doing the right thing for others, when I am a sufferer myself. I really should do better for others.

Very good points raised here.

Cheers Max. Sometimes you just have to look after yourself. Then when you feel better, do more for others when you can.

discrimination and stigma

How do others deal with the hurtful comments within the services either police, ambulance crew or even mental health services?I have been in some very bad situations (nothing criminal) and during the event was desperate for a little humanity.After it makes me feel so much worse.Why did I deserve to be treated with aggression when I wasnt agressive.Why am I told I am wasting their time? I was in a crisis and needed support.Dont find either that any complaints have been followed up.It makes it very hard to seek support next time.I plucked up courage to seek further support and was reported as being a potential risk to others as I was having suicidal thoughts.now my depression is much worse and I have no hope

very true

Very very true my 20 year old is suffering with depression and his friends are really struggling with how to help him. he is losing most of his friends after over a year and half of struggling.

depression

Very very true,my friend Samina just did the same for me.

very helpful advice

Thank you very much, it is one of the most useful comments i've read so far. My friend suffers from depression and there are really dark patches when i feel like climbing up the sky and bringing her a piece of the Moon, if only it helped. I'm a member of so many forums and groups, read quite a number of books trying to answer 'what shall/can/should (not) i do????? Thank you again, take care

It's not always easy for

It's not always easy for outsiders to know if someone is depressed - I am a great actor and a functioning depressive. When I'm at my darkest I wear my brightest. It's all smoke and mirrors. So outsiders shouldn't beat themselves up when they didn't know there was a problem. But if they are aware Paul B you have the six ways to help spot on.

Depression

Paul, Well written post and with great advice. I would also add that if someone with depression etc opens ups and talks, the correct response is to listen and don't say what you think the other person should do or feel. NAMI teaches that this shuts down conversation rather than encourage conversation. If the goal is to help. Help by listening and not judging. All the best, Deb

well said

Well said and great advice. Definately the getting you out of the house for a few hours it can be the last thing you feel like doing. Such an effort to get up and ready and be around people you dont know. Even just in passing. To have to talk to your friend when right now you dont want to speak to anyone about any subject because you dont want to bring them down with you. Giving yourself 10 minutes to relax and then a push to make the effort can be exactly what you need to do. You will more than likely end up laughing and joking after a few minutes which you didnt think would be possible and be feeling better for it. Help your friends help you aswell by making an effort here and there because once you are there with them they will 99%of the time cheer you up and that could then be a few days of smiling and feeling ok. :-)

6 ways to help a friend with depression

I enjoyed reading it, and I started to cry because I have done and said so many things wrong. I don't know how to help and I get frustrated, he gets frustrated. I've tried to educate myself in the subject of depression, but I'm not sure he knows how to express what it is that he needs from me or himself. Sometimes I don't think he takes his depression seriously because he has dealt with it for so long. I care about this person VERY much and not a day goes by that I don't worry about getting a phone call saying he has hurt himself. Sometimes I feel guilty about being happy in my life and wish he could enjoy and share that happiness with me. I know he appreciates what I have done for him, but what else can I do?? I don't call because I never know when he is having a good or bad day because like I said he doesn't talk about it so I leave the conversation up to him. Thank you for this article.

Comments

Thanks everyone for your comments. For anyone trying to get their head round depression - whether it's for you or a friend or relative - I'd really recommend Tim Cantopher's book 'Depressive Illness: The Curse of the Strong'. It helps to make sense of it and is easy to read and understand. I think it also helps you to be kinder to yourself. Depression affects different people in different ways at different times, which can make it incredibly hard to know how best to help someone. You can feel powerless to help, but don't beat yourself up if it seems you're not getting anywhere. Sometimes all you can do is let someone know you're there if they need you.

Thank you

I suffer from severe Depression and this is brilliant advice. Number 2 and Number 5 in particular as these were the two that people did to me and it has almost caused me to end it. Thank you for this article/list.

Fab advice

I've got a great mate who just drops a text once in a while,always seems to be at the right time ,clever bugger!! Great advice

Makes Sense.

Hi. I've seen all manner of this sort of list before, and this is the first one with which I've agreed completely. Thought I'd let you know.

Perfectly written.

Thank you for writing a brilliant blog about depression - it perfectly highlights what people are unsure about in relation to their friends that may have depression.

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