18 Apr 5 Ways I Support My Best Friend Who Suffers from Depression
5 Ways I Support My Best Friend Who Suffers from Depression
In this series of blogs, we explore the realities of anxiety and depression through the lens of real-world first-person narratives from anonymous teens. What else can we learn about these issues? How can we work to overcome them together? Let’s talk about it.
I’m not really sure what depression feels like. This doesn’t mean I don’t have experience with it, though. My best friend, who is the same age as me, suffers from depression. Even though I don’t exactly know how he feels, when he’s upset, I’m right there with him.
I know that my friend appreciates my support and it warms my heart to hear that. I would do anything to make him feel better. Here are some ways I’m there for my best friend. I hope it inspires other people to be there for their loved ones in their times of need, too.
Let them know they’re not alone, but don’t trivialize their feelings.
I find it helpful to make sure my friend knows that he isn’t weird or crazy for being depressed. He knows that, even though I don’t feel the same way as him, I understand what he’s going through and I’m there whenever he needs someone to lean on.
This being said, it’s important not to trivialize his feelings. Something that I wouldn’t want to say to my friend is, “I know exactly how you feel,” or “It’s okay, we all feel this way sometimes.” This makes it seem like his feelings don’t matter and it puts attention on me at a time that isn’t appropriate. This is about him — whether or not other people experience the same feelings as him doesn’t matter. When he’s suffering, respecting and validating his thoughts and feelings are my priority.
Check in on them without being overbearing.
I check in on my friend whenever I feel it’s necessary. If I notice he’s having a particularly bad day or he seems out of it, I’ll ask him how things are or if he wants to hangout and talk after school.
When I first found out that he was depressed, I felt so bad that I wanted to help him in any way I could. I would frequently check in on him and soon he politely asked me to back off a little bit. He told me that he loves that I care so much, but it can get difficult when people check on him all the time. Since then, I’ve respected his boundaries.
It’s important to find a balance when checking on a loved one who’s suffering. Most of the time, just being there and hanging out with him helps a lot more than repeatedly asking him if he’s alright.
Hear them and listen to them.
My friend knows that when we’re together, it’s a safe space to talk about whatever he might need to get off his chest. I’ve made it clear to him that I’ll not only hear anything he wants to say, but I’ll listen to him too.
Recognizing the difference between the two is crucial to being a supportive friend. Hearing a loved one talk about their struggles while you’re on your phone or distracted by something else isn’t really listening. It’s important to do both.
Body language is key to making my friend feel comfortable and heard. Not looking at someone or facing away from them makes you seem disinterested. Instead, make eye contact with them. Sit comfortably yet attentively. If you’re relaxed, they’ll feel more relaxed too.
Remember: opening up to someone about mental health struggles can be really scary. Do your best to make your friend feel calm and thank them for opening up to you.
Treat them normally.
Although this might seem counterproductive, treating my friend normally helps him feel normal too. He’s still my best friend, he’s just facing some struggles. Acting like we always do shows him that I want to be around him because of who he is, not because of his momentary challenges.
People who struggle with mental health aren’t looking for sympathy or constant check-ins. They want to be treated like everyone else because they are like everyone else. Someone who suffers from depression is so much more than their mental illness and it’s best to act normal in order to show them that.
Do research and monitor any changes.
When I first found out that my best friend was depressed, I did research about mental illness to better understand what he was going through. It also helped me feel less worried about him. I was really scared at first and I didn’t know what it meant for him or for our friendship.
I found a lot of information just by going online and reading articles and blogs like these. I felt better equipped to help my friend and be a supportive person in his life.
It’s important to look out for serious changes you notice in your loved one. For example, if your friend is missing a lot of school or they aren’t eating, talk to them and offer to connect them with further help.
Always remember: although you love your friend, you can’t make their struggles disappear. They’re on their own journey and it may require outside resources. By providing them with those resources or assisting them in finding help, you’re being a supportive and caring friend.