Hi and welcome to the fifth installment on depression!! This post is directed towards those people that may not be suffering from depression themselves, but may know someone who IS suffering.
Sometimes it can be bewildering to know that someone in your life is dealing with this and not knowing much about it at all. There is a certain amount of understanding that comes from experiencing the symptoms yourself, but that doesn’t mean you can’t understand if you haven’t experienced them. It just takes a lot of compassion and a bit of research. So, if there’s someone in your life experiencing depression and you’d like to learn how to be of help, I hope this post will give you a bit more of an idea.
Firstly, I’d like to suggest that trying to place blame doesn’t really work. If you’re looking for someone to blame for the way your friend or loved one is feeling, you’re not likely to find a suitable candidate. Blaming yourself doesn’t work either, nor does blaming the person for feeling the way they are. Often depression is just a chemical imbalance in the brain, so finding a person to blame is not really worth the time or effort.
Secondly, don’t discount your friend’s feelings. Yes, what they’re experiencing may have been diagnosed as depression, but that doesn’t mean that you can just say to them ‘don’t worry, it’s just the depression talking’. Other emotions and thoughts come along with depression – including fear, worry, deep sadness, anger, even feelings of worthlessness. If your friend has chosen to open up to you about how they’re feeling, do your best just to listen, and only offer advice if they ask for it. I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve finally managed to open up to somebody, only to be told to ‘get a hobby’ when I wasn’t really asking for advice. Try to gauge what your friend really needs at that moment – be it advice, just someone to listen, or even someone to offer comfort – and do your best to provide it. Sometimes just ten minutes of uninterrupted complaining can be amazing – it helps me get back to being positive and optimistic if I’m able to balance things out with a little bit of complaining!
Doing a little research of your own can really help you to understand what your friend is going through. Look at sites like beyondblue and check out the stuff available right here on tuneinnotout, they have heaps of resources on depression and mental health, which should give you a bit of a deeper look into what exactly is going on – visit the depression, anxiety and stress section to get you started.. Try looking into the chemical and psychological aspects, but also look into emotions and how it all feels – try to put yourself in your friend’s shoes for a little while and see how it feels. All of this will help you glean just how to approach your friend. This research will also mean that you probably come across some quizzes or questionnaires that help someone to know whether they have depression or not – feel free to think about your friend and try and see how many symptoms they’re experiencing. This will also give you an idea of how to help. You will find a checklist factsheet here on TINO that you can go through for when something just doesn’t seem right with a friend of family member.
Ultimately, however, you want to relate to your friend on an individual level. What I mean here is that you need to approach your friend and ask what it is they need – try and get them to be open and honest with you (as long as they’re comfortable) about what it is they need. Try not to encourage damaging behaviours like drug-taking or self-harm – these can feel good in the short term, but ultimately they end up making things more difficult to deal with. In terms of self-harm, try not to get angry with your friend if they are hurting themselves, as this can just make them feel guilty and perhaps drive them towards it again. Demonstrate your concern calmly and try and talk to them about why they do it. Understanding can mean a much smoother recovery process.
These suggestions mostly come from my own experience of depression, and what worked best for me. I have found that people doing research to try and understand what I was going through made me feel really loved and supported – they wanted to help. Some of my loved ones even researched counsellors that I could see, and supported me through making appointments and finding one that suited me specifically. It was a scary path, and it was made smoother by the support of people in my life. Sometimes having people reach out to you when you’re going through a tough time can mean everything.
In this process of course you must not forget about you – you must also take care of your own mental wellbeing and if at any time you are unsure of what to do, or concerned for the safety of your friend ask an adult you trust for some help or contact one of the services listed below for some advise.
Happy mental health to everyone!
As well as having a good check around here at Tune In Not Out at our depression section here a few other great sites to check out to help you help a friend out
Check out the rest of this blog series…
Also check the related topics:Supporting a friend with a mental illness Depression