Understanding a Friend with Depression and How to Help
Wednesday, September 28 2016 Hannah Blum
Healthy friendships have a positive effect on a person's mental health and understanding how to help a friend with depression are beneficial for both individuals. When a person struggles with depression, friends take a backseat during these low periods. Friends play an important role in our lives, and there are a variety of ways to help (Depression Poem for a Friend). It shows that depression not only affects the person struggling but those around them as well. This is why understanding a friend with depression and knowing how to help is important to maintaining a healthy friendship. The first step is learning what depression is and how it affects someone.
Know the Facts to Understand a Friend With Depression
Depression is a treatable mental illness experienced by approximately 9% of Americans at any given time. There are different types of depression. Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) is most common. It is a period of two or more weeks in a depressed (low or sad) mood episode. Regardless of the type of depression, overcoming this obstacle can be difficult and friends play a major role in recovery.
How Does Depression Affect My Friend?
As the friend of someone with depression, it is important to understand some of the difficulties that might come easily to someone who does not struggle with a mental health condition. Getting out of bed or answering the phone can be equivalent to lifting a 500-pound weight for someone going through a period of extreme sadness. If you are the friend of someone who struggles with depression, know that their circumstances are not your fault. In some situations, there is no reason for a depressive episode.
If you are calling and texting their phone constantly, do not assume they are angry. A friend who might be very social on a regular basis is suddenly withdrawn. It is important to understand that this can be embarrassing for someone struggling with these uncomfortable feelings. Keeping up a witty persona becomes a challenge instead of a natural characteristic of that person (Effects of Depression: Physical, Social Effects of Depression). It is best to not get offended or let your friend cause you to be insecure about the friendship. A depressed friend might be protecting you from their own emotional battle or prefer to deal with it alone.
Tips for Helping a Friend with Depression
It is best to let your friend with depression come to you. Send a single text simply voicing your concern, and letting your friend know that when they are ready you are more than willing to help. This allows a sense of relief for both people in the friendship. It is most helpful to be a listener when the time comes.
When someone we love is going through a difficult situation, giving advice seems to be the best way to help, but it may not be. Making a friend with depression feel like they can freely speak upon their feelings goes a long way. If you, as their friend, can relate to their feelings, take it as an opportunity to voice your understanding about these types of emotions. There are more severe situations and being aware of the warning signs of suicide is extremely important (Understanding and Helping the Suicidal Person). Maintaining friendships are work, regardless if there is a mental health condition involved or not.
When I was hospitalized for bipolar II, the fear of being honest about my situation with my friends weighed heavy on my conscience. I kept my diagnosis of bipolar II hidden for years. As I got older this became more and more difficult and my friendships suffered. Instead of being honest with them, I chose to hide myself during depressive episodes or episodes of mania. When I came forward about my diagnosis my friendships took a positive turn. My friends have been supportive and curious to learn about mental health conditions.
I realized that I was the one judging them not vice versa. There is no shame in having a mental health condition. Overcoming these types of obstacles will build a stronger bond that brings two people closer together.