How to Help a Friend Going Through Depression

Abdulmajeed Adam, Magazine Writer

(Photo/ Pexels)

Are you confused about whether a friend of yours has depression? Do you feel unable to help that friend during such a difficult time because you lack the knowledge and experience? 

Losing hope in life, having no pleasure in fun activities, sleep deficiency, and low energy levels are just a few symptoms of the mental illness called “depression.” According to the World Health Organization, more than 264 million people of all ages suffer from depression. It is a common illness around the world that can be cured by psychological treatments and anti-depressants. But sometimes it can be tricky to detect depression—the disorder can be confused for normal sadness or mood changes. 

 Here’s a simple guide that will educate you on how to support a friend struggling with depression:

1. Learn About Depression 

Educate yourself about the illness and its different forms. The easiest way to get information about depression is, of course, the internet; however, surfing the web could be intimidating due to the endless search results. We recommend this great and concise resource from the National Institute of Health in the U.S. as a starting point. It differentiates the types of depression, their causes and how to react to them. Reading journals, academic papers, and books about depression are some good alternatives, too. 

2. Notice the Signs 

Now that you have good knowledge about depression, observe the signs that could be the symptoms of depression. Ask yourself, does your friend have a hopeless outlook on their life? Is your friend always tired and out of energy? Have you noticed any behavioral changes in your friend such as doing things they didn’t do before, like drinking, smoking, overeating, reckless driving, etc.?  Gather as many signs as you can and start making sense out of them. In other words, distinguish between depression and normal sadness. Qatar’s National Mental Health Helpline, reachable at 16000, can also be a good resource, or a reference point for the next steps.

3. Talk to Your Friend About It 

Ask them if they are depressed or if they are just dealing with a tentative obstacle. If your friend has a depressive disorder and was honest with you, listen to them, and understand their struggle. Be a good and active listener: don’t interrupt them when they talk and save your questions to when they finish expressing themselves. Try to learn as much information as your friend can comfortably share with you. This will help you provide the right support and avoid misunderstandings. Also, your friend might not be comfortable or ready to talk about their suffering for a second time; so, take the first chance to ask what you need to know. Don’t force your friend to admit to you that they’re going through depression. Give them the time and space they need to prepare for such a conversation. Be patient: don’t bring up the topic to them constantly, just wait for them to talk when they are ready. 

4. Provide Support 

Be available to your friend as much as possible when they need you. This doesn’t mean that hanging out with your friend every day for hours and making them laugh is going to treat or cure their depression. Although spending quality time with them might enhance their mood, there are other ways to support your depressed friend. Listen to them when they need someone to talk to. Check-up on them regularly to see how they’re doing. Be positive around them. Engage them in new activities such as meeting new people, finding new hobbies, etc. Constantly remind them that you are here for them. Make them understand that feeling sorrow is normal and human; it’s part of life. 

5. Suggest Professional Support 

This step might be challenging for your friend, especially if they are secretive, face societal stigma, or are shy. Psychological help is necessary, said Mehmet Mert Koryurek, a psychiatrist at the Turkish Hospital. Believing in “evidence-based medicine,” which means trusting modern medicine will work as it does on millions of people is important, he added. “Taking medications to feel better is not dangerous or against any religion, so there’s no need for hesitation or fear. You should believe in the power of medicine. Depression is being cured and fixed,” he said. If a patient doesn’t feel totally comfortable in their visit to the psychiatrist, they can always see another doctor or visit another clinic, he added.

Breaking the stigma around mental illness and normalizing this struggle is crucial. Let’s join hands to help our communities and loved ones get through tough times and seek out the help they may need. 


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