Everyone feels a bit sad sometimes as a result of things not going their way or they may be feeling worried or anxious about something. It’s a normal reaction to things that are upsetting or difficult but those feelings will usually pass. However, if that feeling of sadness lasts too long, it can be described as depression.
If you know someone who is suffering from depression, it can be difficult to know what to do or what to say. You want to help them, be there for them, reassure them but you’re unsure as to what’s the best thing to do and this, in turn, can have an effect on your spirits too. Trying to help someone with depression can wear you down and you need to make sure that you have the coping mechanisms in place to look after yourself at the same time.
Learn about depression
Learning about depression will give you a better understanding of how your friend is feeling and what it is they’re going through. This will help you to separate the illness from the person and realise that their mood and behaviour are not necessarily directed at any person in particular.
Realise your limitations
When a friend is suffering from depression, your natural reaction is to fix it and make it better. However, it’s not up to you to fix the problem, nor can you. You’re not to blame for your friend’s depression or responsible for their happiness or lack thereof. While you can be a support to them, the recovery is ultimately in the hands of your friend.
Don’t take it personally
Depression can make people act out of the ordinary. Your once easy-going and relaxed friend may now be irritable and withdrawn. They may lash out in anger and say hurtful things. Remember that this is the depression talking and not your friend, so try not to take it personally.
Seek support for yourself
If you are feeling out of your depth in helping your friend through depression, then seek support. Join a support group, talk to a counsellor or conifer in a trusted friend. You do not have to betray any confidences in seeking this support, just focus on your own emotions and how you feel about the situation.
Manage your own stress levels
Trying to help a friend suffering from depression can be stressful. You may be concerned about their well-being, you may be anxious about their progress through this illness and you may worry for their future. Remember to take time out for yourself and don’t feel guilty for enjoying yourself. It’s just as important that you look after your own mental health so as to be a good support for your friend.
If you have a friend suffering with depression, it is important to know what you can do for them and how to best guide them through this period of their lives. However, it is equally important to know what to do for yourself so that you can be a strong and balanced support for them.
Carlo Cretaro is a freelance blogger and social media consultant for a range of Irish and UK businesses including Aria Therapy in Dublin, Ireland.