Depression affects a person’s thoughts, moods, and behaviors, and is a mental health issue that people battle with on a daily basis. Many people struggling with depression hope that it will go away on its own after a few days or weeks. However, that is not often the case. People suffering from depression can benefit from medications and counseling. To learn how to talk to a friend about her depression, you may want to learn more about the disorder in general. From there you can learn valuable ways to help your friend talk about depression, and what you need to do for yourself and your friend when she is hesitant to talk about her depression.
There is good information about depression; however, there are also a number of myths about this mental health issue. The post, “What to Do When a Friend is Depressed” provides useful information for the loved ones of people with depression.
When the sense of feeling down lasts for more than a couple of weeks, the condition may be diagnosed as clinical depression. Clinical depression is a serious health problem that affects the total person. In addition to feelings, it can change behavior, physical health and appearance, academic performance, and the ability to handle everyday decisions and pressures.
Clinical depression is more common than most people think, affecting 10 million Americans every year. However, depression is treatable. Between 80 and 90 percent of people with depression can be helped. Symptoms can be relieved quickly with psychological therapies, medications, or a combination of both. A trained therapist or counselor can help people learn positive ways to think about themselves, change behavior, cope with problems, or handle relationships. A physician can prescribe medications to help relieve the symptoms of depression. For many people, a combination of psychological therapy and medication is beneficial.
If you want to help your friend, you need to become aware of the symptoms of depression including the following:
- Feelings of sadness, emptiness, hopelessness, pessimism, guilt, helplessness, or worthlessness
- Inability to make decisions, concentrate or remember things
- Loss of interest or pleasure in ordinary activities
- Having more problems with school and family
- Loss of energy and drive
- Trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or getting up
- Appetite problems, weight gain or loss
- Headaches, stomach aches, or backaches
- Chronic aches and pains in joints and muscles
- Wanting to be alone
- Acting restless or more irritable
- Talk about death or suicide
The most important, yet often the most difficult, a step toward treating depression is asking for help. If you feel your friend is struggling with depression, you can reach out to her.
How You Can Help
When a friend is struggling with depression, your natural tendency is to want to fix it. However, that is not within your realm to do and you may be anxious about how to talk to your friend about her depression. The post, “Helping a Depressed Person,” offers valuable suggestions.
Being a compassionate listener is one of the most important things you can do to help your friend. Simply talking to someone face to face can be an enormous help to someone suffering from depression. Encourage the depressed person to talk about his or her feelings, and be willing to listen without judgment.
Besides being a compassionate listener, another trait that will help you help your friend is persistence. Depressed people tend to withdraw from others and isolate themselves; therefore, you need to express your willingness to listen over and over again.
Often, you may not know how to start the conversation. Statements that can get you started include the following:
- I have been feeling concerned about you lately.
- Recently, I have noticed some differences in you and wondered how you are doing.
- I wanted to check in with you because you have seemed pretty down lately.
If these questions give your friend the opportunity to start talking about her depression, you can keep the conversation moving forward by asking questions including the following:
- When did you begin feeling like this?
- Did something happen that made you start feeling this way?
- How can I best support you right now?
- Have you thought about getting help?
Notice how these statements and questions are free from judgment and keep your friend in control of how she chooses to move forward. You are simply being supportive by offering encouragement and hope.
What if My Friend Doesn’t Want to Talk
It can be frightening and frustrating for you when your friend doesn’t want to talk about her depression. The post, “What to do when someone doesn’t want help” provides insights into how to handle this situation.
It is very important that you don’t let your frustration or fears interfere with how to help your friend. Be sure that you do not try to force the issue, put pressure on him, or avoid him. The best things for you to do are continue to be supportive and be responsive when your friend does reach out. In addition, there are several things you can do for yourself during this time including the following:
- Get informed
- Talk to a trusted friend
- Set boundaries
By taking care of yourself, you will be in a better position to help your friend when she reaches out.