Has your friend been skipping out on social gatherings? Does someone you know withdraw from the group at parties? Do you notice your friend talking negatively about themselves frequently?
Depression can hit quickly without any warning signs and can also progress over time into something a lot scarier if not dealt with appropriately. Depression manifests in many ways, unique to the individual experiencing it. It is a common mental health disorder that is a problem facing people of all ages and on a global level. According to the World Health Organization, there are approximately 264 million people who suffer from depression worldwide and in its worst form can lead to suicide 1(World Health Organization, 2020). There are ways to recognize depression early on in those around you and prevent its progression to suicidal thoughts. The tips below will show you how to be the one who stops depression in its tracks for your friends and loved ones.
1. Listen to them express their emotions to gain understanding.
Listening to them vocally express how they are feeling without interrupting can provide you enough information to help them in the best way possible for them. It can be difficult to talk about emotions if it feels pressured or when they are feeling depressed, but make it known you are someone they can talk to and don’t push them to. Don’t be afraid to ask how they are feeling directly in an expression of concern and then allow them to talk openly about their depression in a way that makes them feel heard.
2. Encourage seeking therapy and local counseling services.
Local therapists can be found through internet search or reaching out to the Crisis Text Line or health services in your community. It can be easy to find resources and do research on who can best help your friend in finding ways out of their depression. Talking to a therapist who is trained in handling feelings of depression and providing expertise on the matter will have better long-term tools they can learn to use to cope with their depression. Counseling is effective for depressive disorders by giving them a person they can trust and talk to on a regular basis, objectively.
3. Research depression disorders to better understand it.
Depression exists in varying degrees and forms. Knowing the differences between each and understanding the mental impact of depression is a good idea to better understand your loved one.The National Institute of Mental Health refers to depressive disorders as major depressive disorder, clinical depression, persistent depression disorder, and psychotic depression or depression as a result of a unique circumstance like postpartum depression 2(NIMH, 2018). Knowing whether there is a concurrent issue they are dealing with, like anxiety or an eating disorder, or a cause to their depression like a huge life change, will give you more specific details and ways to aid them in getting out of depressive thoughts.
4. Offer your help in any way you can and whenever possible.
- When someone is depressed, they often feel tired and not up to doing anything. Offering your help with some tasks they may need to do or even making dinner for them on occasion may help relieve some of that depression they are feeling. It will also let them know you are there to help in any way they need, whether that be talking on the phone with them or making dinner for them and enjoying the meal together. The most important thing about this tip is to offer help in a way that may improve their mood and show them they are not alone.
- Another way to offer help is doing some research on professional help they may need, like counseling services, and helping them find the right one. Offering to drive them to their appointments or go with them may even make them more inclined to accept your help and make the right steps toward help sooner.
5. Stay in contact on a regular basis via text, phone calls, or hanging out in person.
Check up on them daily through simple texts or phone calls. Set up time to see them in person pretty frequently to better gauge their body language and mood. It is easier to see changes in behavior the more prominent you are in their life and they in yours. Text often to ask what they are up to and how they are feeling. It might be easy to hide their true reactions over text, so maybe try calling or setting up a time to hang out in person doing something that will get them talking. It’s better to reach out as soon as you start to feel concerned instead of waiting and risking their depression progressing to the point of suicide.
6. Recognize the different behaviors in depression and when to intervene.
It’s no secret that when someone is depressed they may not seem themselves and can show visible emotions of sadness. Sometimes this is not the case and people hide it very well, especially in our age of technology. The National Institute of Mental Health suggests a few different red flags to watch out for depression including loss in hobbies or activities they usually like doing, doing things slower than usual, being constantly fatigued or having low energy, being unusually pessimistic, and having trouble making decisions or concentrating among many others 3(NIMH, 2018). Depression presents itself differently based on the person, but generally speaking these are some tell-tale signs.
7. Utilize the crisis support resources via helpline and text line.
- The National Suicide Prevention Hotline also mentioned in our resources page can be a great way to reach out in a moment of crisis and connect you to professional help in your geographic area. Hotlines like this exist and are completely free, open 24/7 for you to use.
- The Crisis Text Line at 741741 can also be used in depressive episodes. It is useful in moments of crisis and in getting them connected to the right professionals in their area.
8. Respond to emergencies promptly.
If your friend has become a danger to themselves or sounds like their depression has led them to consider suicide, waste no time in getting professional help and heading to them. Be with them if you can or send someone to them that can. It is important to make sure they are safe and have the support they need in moments of crisis.
9. Take them seriously.
Depression can often show in people through jokes at first, not really knowing if it’s real or not. If your friend expresses they are feeling sad, don’t brush it off and promise things will be okay. Take their feelings seriously, try to get all the information you can and determine where to go from there. If they are feeling sad or not themselves, there may be something deeper going on and you cannot provide a quick fix for them. Take their feelings and thoughts seriously and don’t provide any distractions from their depression until you know they are in a safe mental space.
10. Laughter can contribute to the healing process, so make them smile today!
Smiling and laughing are some quick mood boosters you can do randomly throughout the days to provide some lighter mood conversations with them. Funny videos you see on the internet or GIFs may be just what they need on a bad day to smile at least once that day. Funny videos, cute animal pictures, or other things they enjoy could be ideas of what to send them. Laughter is contagious and just as impactful as those serious talks you have with them.
- World Health Organization. (2020, January 30). Depression. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/depression
2. National Institute of Mental Health. (2018, February). Depression. Retrieved from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/depression/index.shtml