11 DOS and DON’TS of How to Help a Friend with Depression

Written by Sally McQuillen – mother, social worker,
 and Erika’s Lighthouse Executive Council Member

1. DO become concerned when your typically outgoing
friend doesn’t text or call and you realize you haven’t
heard from him/her in an unusually long period of time.

2. DON’T take it personally that you have not heard from
him/her as it has nothing to do with you or anything you
may have said or did.

3. DO connect with them and ask directly if indeed you
have not heard from them because they are feeling
down, expressing sincere concern and compassion.

4. DON’T intentionally or unintentionally impart guilt that
they have been unavailable to you, this may contribute
to the guilt and low self-esteem they may already be
battling.

5. DO realize that if they are able to talk to you about being
depressed that it likely requires much courage and effort
on their part. Also, the word “depressed” you use is not
the same one that they are describing; in fact, it may
help to ask them to explain to you what depression feels
like to them. Validate how hard that must be.

6. DON’T make over simplified solutions for feeling
better. Getting better is a recipe that requires many
“ingredients” working together in harmony. Saying
things like, “going to that party will cheer you up” or “if
you would just exercise you would have more energy”,
may actually be discouraging. Trust me, if it were that
simple they wouldn’t be depressed.

7. DO simply listen when they share.

8. DON’T forget that their mind isn’t working quite like it
usually does, so their perceptions may be skewed and
they may be more sensitive than usual. Try to exercise
patience.

9. DO continue to reach out to them and let them know
that they are important to you even if they are giving
you indications that they want to be left alone. Their
isolating behavior is the depression talking.

10. DON’T forget that even if they look like they are doing
fine they may be feeling pretty bad. They become good
at making us think that they are fine because that’s how
they want to feel.

11. DO know that all of the efforts you make to support
your loved ones when they are suffering are extremely
meaningful to them and don’t go unrecognized.

 

For more information about teenage depression, visit Erika's Lighthouse or our pages about depression and the Erika's Lighthouse Chapter at BHS.

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