Helping a Friend

Perhaps you have a friend who is suffering from depression. What can you do to help? Here are some suggestions:

First and foremost, treat them with respect. Treating them as "ill" or "disturbed" only makes matters worse. Avoid blaming them for their depression; they probably feel guilty enough already. A friend's prolonged bout of depression can sometimes arouse feelings of frustration, but it's important to remember that an individual suffering with depression is in great distress and is in need of thoughtful understanding, not judgment.

Rather than try to guess what your friend needs from you, ask them to give you some specific suggestions. Although depressed people have many characteristics in common, each person has their own unique needs. They may benefit from having you do something practical, like setting up specific times to meet them for meals, or taking a walk together at night. They may want to know you are praying for them or want you to pray with them. Don't be surprised if they hesitate at first to tell you what they want or need. They may not really know what they want or may be afraid to burden you. Reassure your friend that you really do want to help, and tell them you'll give them honest feedback if they ask you to do more than you think you are capable of.

Help your friend to find additional help, especially if their depression lingers or intensifies. Your friend might not feel comfortable speaking with a counselor, but they may be willing to take a first step and read about depression. You can direct them to this website for information. We also have brochures on depression at the Counseling Center. Perhaps they would be willing to talk to their RA or their RD, especially if you go with them for support. You can also help them to see one of the counselors at the Counseling Center and can come with them to their first appointment, if that would help them to feel more comfortable.

An important step in being a friend to someone who is depressed is to ask them directly if they have contemplated suicide. You must not avoid the topic out of fear or embarrassment. If they have considered it, they most likely will feel relieved the topic has been brought out in the open. If one of your friends has spoken of suicide, get help from some one in the Counseling Center, or your RA or RD immediately! It is a myth that those who threaten suicide never attempt it. And don't let your reluctance to violate the person's confidence prevent you from seeking help. The privacy of your relationship will be small comfort if a friend has ended his or her life.

Seek advice from your RA or RD. They have special training in dealing with such problems, and will also know how to refer you elsewhere if needed. Being a friend to a depressed person can be difficult at times, and it helps to have someone to talk to. Also, feel free to come to the Counseling Center to discuss your concerns with us.