Depression is the most common mental health issue in the world. It affects more than 16 million American adults every year. Symptoms include sadness, sleeping too much or too little, slow movements, poor concentration, hopelessness, and frequent thoughts of death or suicide. Since depression affects so many people, you probably know someone with depression, but you might not be aware of it. Many people struggling with depression are good at hiding it. Many seem outwardly happy and successful but are secretly miserable. If you discover a friend is depressed, here are some ways to help.
Don’t freak out.
For many people with depression, talking about it is hard. If your friend decides to tell you about it, she’s probably feeling lost and desperate and thinks telling you is worth the risk. You may feel surprised or uncomfortable, but try to remember your friend is in pain and needs help.
You might not know what to say when your friends tells you she has been feeling depressed, hopeless, and possibly suicidal. That’s fine. You don’t have to say the perfect thing. It’s better to listen and ask questions. Whatever your personal opinions or advice about depression, they can wait. Try to understand what your friend is going through.
There are a lot of misconceptions about depression, such as the idea that you can just snap out of it or that people with depression are self-absorbed. In fact, the more we learn about depression, the more we discover there’s a large physical component to it. Depression is complex and involves a number of factors, including genes, trauma, and personal history.
Encourage her to get help.
If you friend isn’t getting professional help already, encourage her to do so. Typically, the place to start is by seeing her doctor, who can either prescribe medication or refer her to a psychiatrist or therapist. This process can be daunting, so you might offer to help by researching therapists in the area, making an appointment, or maybe even driving her there.
One effect of depression is that you don’t really want to see anyone. However, isolation tends to make depression worse, leading to a downward spiral. Be sure to include your friend in plans; even if she frequently cancels, it’s reassuring to be included. Call or stop by regularly to keep in touch. Even if you just sit around doing nothing for a while, it can help.
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