4 Ways To Help a Friend Suffering From Depression


The tragic news of Robin Williams’ untimely death, following a lengthy history of depression and problems with addiction, has shaken us all to our core. Robin Williams entertained us. He was funny and talented. He made us laugh and he made us cry. Most of all he made us think — and sadly his death is making us think some more. The message he left us with is that even those who aren’t wearing their depression on their sleeves may be suffering. It is because depression is often insidious, sneaky, and not easily discernible.

About 1 in 10 adults suffer from it, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, so it’s highly likely that someone in your circle of friends is dealing with depression.

So how can you recognize if a friend or family member has ‘clinical depression’?

According to the ‘mental health bible’ known as the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), it can look like either a sad or irritable mood accompanied by sleep, energy, and appetite changes, as well as feelings of worthlessness. The depressed person may have difficulty concentrating, feel helpless and hopeless, and have a markedly lost interest in daily activities that they usually find pleasurable. If left untreated, clinical depression can lead to illness, impaired functioning, and suicide so it’s important to monitor those who you suspect may have it.

If you’re aware that a loved one is suffering from depression, here are 4 things you can do. This will get them the help they need as well as comfort them during this difficult time.

1. Make sure that your friend is getting professional help.

Depressed individuals often lack the energy to seek help since fatigue is a symptom associated with the disorder. Since getting help isn’t negotiable, you should assist your friend with finding a therapist. And then take them to their first appointment (if necessary) to help them get started.

Depressive disorders affect approximately 18.8 million American adults,. But due to stigma and other factors, fewer than half of those suffering actually seek help. To help those in need, there are many community-based organizations nationwide that offer anonymous self-assessments for a variety of concerns that are often misunderstood or misdiagnosed. You can also have your friend take a confidential and free depression screening online. Or have them participate in National Depression Screening Day (NDSD), which is on October 9th.

2. Don’t act as if depression is a choice—it’s not.

It’s a very real and overpowering problem, not simply a bad habit to be kicked. No one chooses to be depressed, so treat your friend with dignity and respect and don’t suggest that they simply ‘snap out of it.’ Depression has many possible causes, including faulty mood regulation by the brain, genetic vulnerability, stressful life events, medications, and medical problems. People with depression need treatment just like people with other illnesses need treatment, so be compassionate about your friend’s sickness.

3. Be available.

Depressed people often feel very lonely and empty, so your presence can be soothing. Even if your depressed friend isn’t talking much, just making yourself available and being present can be excellent medicine. If they’re feeling stuck, being around a trusted friend or family member may also help them seek out new connections such as a depression support group. Remind them that asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness.

4. Go out of your way to make sure they have what they need.

When people get depressed they often don’t take care of themselves because they lack the energy and motivation to do so. Any kind gesture on your part will make a difference, whether it’s stopping by with their favorite meal, a hot cup of coffee, or offering to help out with life tasks. Ask if you can lend a hand with laundry, cleaning, grocery shopping, or other to-dos that may be overwhelming your friend. If she has kids, then perhaps you could take them out for an afternoon to give her a break. Do anything that you’re able to do; it will be greatly appreciated.

Sadly there isn’t a vaccine that prevents depression. We’re all susceptible, so keep this in mind as you help your friends who are in the throes of it. At some point in your life you may need help too. I wish you good physical and mental health. Never underestimate how helpful you can be to your friends.

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