My Friend is Depressed: What Do I Do?

C71713FA-E4C5-443C-A42B-8222CD325413I have suffered from depression on and off for much of my life.  Some episodes have been worse than others.  But with each one, in time they passed.  While I was in the midst of the depression, I thought that there was no end to the suffering.  I had to tell myself throughout every day that I would get through it and that I had to keep moving.  Some days this was successful, but other days I just didn’t leave my bed.  For me, it was not until the correct medication combination, kicked in and brought me relief.  I also participated in psychotherapy, but when depressed I either cried the whole session or was argumentative and beyond feisty with my therapist challenging nearly everything that she said.

Having said that, one would think I would know exactly what to say and do to help others who are suffering.  It would just make sense based on my experience, having been there, done that, have the t-shirt and the medical bracelet.  But, this is not the case.

I have a friend who has been suffering, and I missed it.  I am not sure how this happened, but it’s been going on for a while and just recently did I notice what was right before my eyes.  The change in personality, the quietness, the withdrawing.  How did I miss this?

And now I am sitting here, seeing a friend hurting, and realizing that I am not sure what to do.  How can I make it better?  How can I fix it?  What can I do to help their suffering?  What’s this girl to do?

I go back to my episodes and try to pinpoint what worked for me.  But when I really think about it, the only thing that worked for me was getting on the right medications and getting my hormones in balance post hysterectomy.  This is not the case for my friend.  And even if it were, that means that there is nothing that I can do.  I can’t assist with medication, and if there was a concern about hormones, that is out of my realm of control as well, hell I can’t even control my own hormones, let alone someone else’s.

I have checked in with this person.  Asking every day or every few days how things were going.  Asking what I can do to help if anything.  I have been listening and being patient.  And the hardest part is I am reminding myself that I can only control what is within my control.  I can not take this away from my friend.  If I could, I would in a heartbeat, just as I am sure my friends and family would have taken the depression I suffered from away from me had they had the opportunity.

During the month of May, there is special attention paid to Mental Illness.

I did some research and from several sources, pulled together a list of suggestions of what a friend can do when their friend or family member is depressed.  Below is the best, most complete list that I found:

  1. Educate Yourself About Depression and Other Mood Disorders
  2. Ask Questions and Dig for the Root Cause
  3. Help Them Identify and Cope with Sources of Stress
  4. Encourage Them to Seek Out a Support Group
  5. Remind Them That They’re Incredibly Strong
  6. Make Them Smile, Because Laughter Helps and Heals
  7. Let Them Know They Won’t Always Feel This Way
  8. If You Do Only One Thing, Let It Be Listening

Reference Articles:


46 Replies to “My Friend is Depressed: What Do I Do?”

    1. Yes, listening is SOOOO important. I was thinking the other day why I enjoy therapy. And a big part of therapy that makes me feel good is talking and being heard. To have someone that is there to listen and add compassionate responses back to me. The gift of listening benefits the recipient and the giver.

    1. Thank you. I found good resources online when I was researching.
      I have made suggestions that they continue with their psychotherapy and make an appointment to see their psychiatrist sooner rather than later to get a check in and to see if a change in medication could be warranted.

  1. For me it means a lot when someone doesn’t stop asking me to do things like go for coffee. Even if I need to say no, at least they asked. The key is asking without pressuring. If I’m isolating and not up to even responding to a text, it still means a lot to me to get a “thinking of you, hope you feel better” text when someone knows I’m struggling.

    1. I will keep that in mind when I am interacting with others and should I fall into a depression to be able to vocalize to others what I would like to receive from them. Thank you for sharing!

      1. when not up to doing anything, I will often say “no, but please don’t stop asking” if I’ve said no a few times in a row. It’s good to remind people what you need.

      2. Thank you for sharing. I’m going to keep this in mind the next time that I’m in the same boat.

  2. This rings true me for me as well. Perhaps struggling with my own mental illness is what creates a fog for me in being able to notice mental illness in others. Like the person above me noted, a real red flag is often when one of my friends reduces her amount of communication with me, whether it be fewer text messages or fewer hangouts. However, it depends on the illness… Anyways, reaching out and mentioning that you are always willing to be a support always seems helpful, even if the person isn’t ready to talk about it yet.

    1. Thank you for your response… I have experienced what you describe and I have been the one who has cut back on texts and hang outs as a result of my own depression. I have made it a point to check in with my friend frequently so they know I am here and ready to be there to do something when they are ready.

  3. Excellent practical advice. I would only add Jeep environment inside & outside as positive as possible. In the very early stages before depression set in its hooks, would make an extra effort to dress nicely. I surrounded myself with uplifting music & people. Any sign of negativity & I turned away. No put down thoughts, imagining or thinking of past trouble allowed.

    1. Funny you mention dressing nicely… that is a HUGE thing for me. When i feel like crap I make sure I try and add the extra time and energy into looking nice because when I look nice I just feel better. Thank you for your response and I wish you nothing but positivity in your life!

  4. I think your presence and support are amazing already. In the end, I found that I had to find my own way out of anxiety and depression. Having someone to talk to is already comforting. 🙂

    1. Thank you! Since I have suffered in the past, I really dont want anyone to suffer at all. It is such a hard, dark, lonely place to be. Like you, I had to do a lot of the work to get myself out of the depression that I was in as well.

  5. What helped me tremendously is indeed going places with people. Depression in my terms is the disease of being disconnected from Life. Just going for a coffee somewhere, not to far off, not too close, quiet places, possibly in a park or non-urban settting. As they say: fresh air, sunshine, some walking and non-demanding human contact. All good. 🙂
    And in addition to that: I quit drinking. I drank heavily (because I was addicted) because I was strongly convinced alcohol was helping me to survive the hell hole I was in. It does not.
    Turns out that any addiction ups the dopamine but dopamine lowers serotonine in the body. So we feel highs because of drinking or drugging but never feel content, peaceful and happy anymore. Natural laws. :-).
    It is my strongest conviction that one can not easily or succesfully medicate or improve someones depressed state when they are in active addiction. Since I see the relation addiction-depression in a lot of people (80%) step one for me would be to find out if there is a pattern of some abuse and how deep it runs. Also: a lot of people who are sober / clean see their depression just lift from them. (Exceptions are people who come from a background of abuse 🙁 ) However, checking out if there is any addiction in place would be a thing. Next to going out in the sun and just being human together.
    This might not be what you would have liked to hear, but I really, really do hope that the message; ‘Alcohol causes depression’ finds its way into the world. Alcohol, like any addictive poison does exactly the opposite from what it is advertised to do.
    Wishing you good times with your friend.
    xx, Feeling

    1. CONGRATULATIONS on your victory with addiction… job well well done… and yes, alcohol affects the brain in a number of ways, none that have been reported to be postive. I really appreciate your input and your thoughts and your sharing!

    2. My mom has struggle on and off with alcohol addiction as well as mood disorders. I’m quite sure you’re right about this— at the very least, even if the alcohol doesn’t cause the depression, it certainly seems to trigger it in susceptible people. Good work with your healing! Always nice to hear different perspectives from people

      1. I am very sorry to hear your mother stepped into the alcohol trap. It is poison. Deadly to some, harmful to most. I hope she found help? Another point I found baffling about addiction is that people one would call ‘normal’ from the outside (family, job, no strange things going on) fall to it, get addicted and only after they get sober their whole story of mental but often physical abuse comes out. Not saying it is everybody but there are a lot of secrets out there. Part of my enormous discomfort in this world was related to several cases of child abuse. But I never knew then because nobody helped me when I asked for help so I thought it was normal and my fault. Even while knowing how these systems work within kids, I still resided to the same thinking (it must be my fault – nobody cares for you) as they did. I never really understood why I would get so angry about the subject of child abuse till I got sober and stepped back into the real emotions from then. Very mucht WTF experience. And I even got away ‘easy’. Behind every addicted person is a story of severe horror in combination with an inability to cope otherwise than trying to whipe it all out.
        And for you, I am sorry your mother has an addiction and mood disorder. That in itself is a recipe for an unstable childhood. You do know that there are groups for this? I believe it is called Adult Children of Alcoholics, they focus on getting yourself back and undoing the fear and care one has for the addicted parent.
        Hope you find something in my writing. 🙂
        xx, Feeling

      2. Aw, thank you for your kind words and for sharing this too! I agree that a lot of these issues do seem to come from trauma and difficult circumstances. My mom is better now by and large, but it is unpredictable. Due to the nature of the condition, she can be fine for long periods of time before falling prey to the alcohol and/or depression. So sometimes she’s going strong and sometimes she’s not. I’ve mostly come to terms with that, even if it’s stressful at times. I hate to see her suffer. I also just feel rather helpless sometimes because there’s really not much my dad or I can do. But showing up and being present seems to help.

        I haven’t ever checked out any official resources, but I do have supportive friends and family. I also was seeing a therapist for ~3 years who really helped me sort through a lot of this. While maybe not the perfect most shining example of good mental health, I feel stable most days and I’m usually pretty happy with life. 😊 Blogging has helped me and also my mom as well. And of course, reaching out to people and knowing that I’m not alone is also great.

        I hope that my mom and you as well find some peace in life from the addiction. It sounds like you’ve gotten some help at least and that’s good. Sorry too to hear about the abuse 🙁 Isn’t it strange how kids do blame themselves? We see that pattern so often. Strange and quite sad. Maybe we can finally learn to recognize it in others and offer them the support and care they need.

        Anyway thanks again! It is again good to hear your perspective!

        Take care! 🙂

      3. Isn’t it amazing how blogging and having outlets can be so beneficial to a person? I did not realize how much it would benefit my life but have been pleasantly surprised by how much it has helped me. I was originally worried that I would not have the words to say what was on my mind, but most days, when I start typing the words just flow out of me and God I feel so much better after getting it out. Keep up your amazing work! You are making a difference in people’s lives.

      4. It really does help! And same to you! Keep up the blogging and the sharing! It’s been a huge benefit 🙂

      5. Thank you so much for sharing your story. It is wonderful that you have found sobriety and have worked through your treatment to find peace.

      6. Thank you. It is a life of work, addiction is cunning. I wouldn’t believe it if I had not been there myself. 🙂 Peace would be a next step. 🙂 <3 but maybe the stress junk in me is not up to that yet 😀

      7. Yes, I also agree that it does cause problems. From research I have done, I have found that there is a high occurrence of substance abuse with mood disorders. I think that it starts with self medicating and then turns into a problem as it persists.

      8. Right 🙁 People try to numb the pain via alcohol and drugs and then everything spirals out of control from there!

  6. This is powerful. Thank you for sharing. It is true that when it’s us that are struggling, it’s one thing, but when it’s a loved one… we get into this mind frame of what do I do???
    This story I believe will help others.

    1. Thank you for reading!
      Yes I believe also that it is one thing when it’s us and another when it’s a person that we care for. I’m happy to report that they stated that things are looking brighter for them and I’m starting to see the light in their eyes again.

  7. It’s so hard when a friend is struggling! We want so much to help them! In my experience the best things we can do is listen, like you said. Like, really actually truly listen. And then make sure that we take care of ourselves in the meantime too, so that we don’t go under either.

    1. Yes listening, and the true listening that you speak of, is the best thing that we can do. I know when I was depressed I knew that no one could “fix” it for me, but I def missed interacting with my family and friends. A combination of my withdrawing and their not knowing what to do, i lost contact with a number of people and that made it very hard on me, and to this day I still have strained relationships as result.

      1. Yeah 🙁 it’s really difficult. When we are struggling the most, that is the time when we need our relationships and friendships the most! But also the time when we are less likely to reach out to people 🙁 Good that you are recovering though! Hope with time you are able to patch up your relationships that are strained

  8. I have always found that my friends just being there, being an ear or a shoulder to cry on was all I really needed. You are doing the right thing.

    1. Thank you for the affirmation. I really appreciate it. It’s a hard place when you can’t fix it and just need to be there and be patient and allow the process to take its course.

  9. Hi, it’s James. I hope this finds you. I wanted to post your contributor blog post, but it is missing the featured picture. You have where you got the picture, but no picture. I think you probably meant to send it to me? This was the only way to contact you.

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