So this is something I see online quite a lot. And it’s a good thing. People asking how they could best support a friend or a partner who suffers from depression. And I can understand why. It’s not an easy situation to be in. You don’t want to say the wrong thing. You don’t want to make things worse.
I know I can’t speak for all depressed people, but I can express my opinion as a lucky depressed person with many caring and loving friends.
First of all, whoever you’re seeking to support is lucky to have such a considerate and thoughtful friend like you. You already have 99% of the job done. You want to support your friend. That’s really all you need. You don’t have to be a trained psychologist.
Honestly, all the power to you. It’s not an easy situation to be in and you’re doing a very kind thing.
Ask them how they are, even if it feels silly. Listen to what they say. Depression often makes people feel like they’re a burden to others. Make sure your friend knows that you genuinely care for their well-being. I know I tend to withdraw from others when I’m unwell but the knowledge that I have people I can call makes such a difference.
What if they say something that worries you? Many people are worried that they are now somehow responsible for the person with a depression.
It does make things easier if you have a contact within your friend’s inner circle, such as a member of their family who you can voice your concerns to if needed. In a case like mine, where my family lives in another country, my GP and crisis team emergency contact was a friend who had my family’s contact details.
If you are suffering from depression and think your friends worry about what you need, do tell them. That’s what I do. If I want a cuddle, I ask for one. If I want to chat, I call. If I need help, I ask. Knowing what’s asked from you makes things a lot easier for everyone. Don’t feel guilty for asking for help. Friendship is a two-way street. If your friend was in a same situation, would you help them?
Still, depression doesn’t excuse bad behaviour. Your friend may be saying or doing hurtful things. I know it’s difficult but please try not to take it personally. The annoying thing about depression is that it distorts your views about everything. That may drive people to push others away or have very black and white views about things in general. It doesn’t justify abhorrent behaviour of course but knowing that this person is ill may make things a bit easier to deal with.
Do bring up their behaviour with them, but you might want to wait until their recovery has progressed. I know that there was no point in reasoning with me at times when I was really ill.
I have done things I’m not proud of at all, such as deleting people from my Facebook without explanation. I was able to do it because depression had made me completely emotionless. That’s still something I need to address once my recovery is at a point where I can fully appreciate the hurt I must’ve caused to people I used to be close friends with.
That’s the infuriating thing about depression is that recovery is very slow. If you’re not suffering from depression yourself, things often tend to be solution-based. What needs to be understood is that oftentimes there aren’t any other solutions but time. Counselling? Takes time. Antidepressants? Take time. It may be looking like your friend isn’t getting better or is stuck in a rut. You may become frustrated for them.
Still, keep at it. Keep supporting them. Keep listening. Keep asking how they are. Keep sending them memes and cute animal pictures. I bet everything I own that your friend will appreciate this more than you’ll ever know.
That brings me to my final point: If you want to support your friend with depression, you need to first and foremost look after yourself. I should know how much work depressed people are, I am one. I’ve given my friends permission to discuss my illness with whoever they choose to vent to. I understand it’s necessary at times and if it enables them to unwind, I’m comfortable with that. It’s no use to anyone if they exhaust themselves supporting me.
I’m not telling anyone what to do because everyone’s unique but if you’re depressed, you may want consider acknowledging a supporting friend’s end of the deal at times. You’re going through a lot of horrible stuff but they are experiencing it with you.
Nobody can tell what’s going on in other person’s head. So just ask. And if someone asks, tell them. When you’re battling an illness nobody else can see, communication is absolutely crucial. I can’t stress this enough.
Depression doesn’t just affect one person, it radiates to everyone around them. It’s important to remember that it’s nobody’s fault. Nobody asks to be ill. That’s why it’s just as important to look after the nearest and dearest of those suffering from depression so that they can continue to support a loved one.
The road to recovery is long and hard but it is lighter to walk together.