Life can get at us sometimes, it can get at our friends too. When our friend is depressed, how should we help them? With the increasing numbers of depressed students in Singapore, FamilyTutor feels the need to talk about how we can properly help those around us who are depressed.
When a friend is depressed, the first thing you’d want to do is to let him or her know that you’re there for them. Being a good listener assures your friend that his or her voice is heard, and your constant attention does way more than just a listening ear – it gives good company that fights against loneliness. You can keep asking open questions, appropriately of course, without challenging boundaries. You can express your concern, or simply nod or keep eye contact (unless the receiver prefers not to have) just to show them that you are present in the conversation. If meeting in person is not feasible, try going for video calls. And if voice calls are preferred, initiate voice calls. Let your friend feel heard in the ways that he or she is comfortable with the most.
That being said, it is important to find out what your friend is comfortable with. It is common for the listener to start sharing their own similar experiences, or even non-similar experiences, to express understanding of the issue. But what if that is not what your friend wants in the first place? Some people don’t need advice; they might be simply looking for assurance and company. Some people need guidance; they want someone to join in their sea of thoughts to give them a third-party opinion. Some people just need a hug; they might just be really sad and torn inside. We never know what exactly our friend needs, but we can try to discern what our friend might need in the midst of the conversation. And most importantly, we would never know until we start looking out for little signs and clues. Keep this in mind as you listen to your friend’s stories.
Have you ever listened to a friend’s problem, only to discover that your friend… might be the problem? Well, it is not uncommon to realise the mistakes that your friend might not have realised, or subconsciously refuses to admit to. Regardless, don’t try to fix them. No one is perfect, and it is only human to err. Someone who makes mistakes can also be upset and depressed. Always comfort the friend and take care of his or her emotions first, before trying to point them to their mistakes. The most crucial thing is, never ever use imperative sentences- those that sound like commands and warnings. Be suggestive, and not claim the ownership of their problems.
While your friend may be having a hard time, you may be having a hard – or harder – time as well. Or perhaps, you may have had it worse in the past. Perhaps you have yet to solve your problem fully either. Nevertheless, the important thing now is not a battle of who has it worse. That is pointless and detrimental to both you, and your friend. Why not try to understand what your friend is going through, and focus on helping your friend? Your similar experiences can be of crucial help as well. Tell your struggles to your friend too. They may realise that they are not the only ones struggling, and the two of you may even be able to figure out good solutions together. As the saying goes, “two heads are better than one”. Maybe the solution to your problems can be found faster when the two of you do it together.
Don’t forget to voice your support and offer to help. Sometimes, we may think that sitting there and listening to our friend is enough to show our support. But the truth is, spoken words make a difference. As we understand what they really need from the conversations, we try to offer the most appropriate and feasible help we can offer. Remember, do not over-promise your friend and only promise what you can do within your means.
Some friends rant about their problems, receive comfort from you, and regain the energy to move on with their lives again. Some friends confide in you, discuss their problems with you, but still need constant support from you. If your friend needs more time and encouragement, be patient with them. Don’t force them to find the resolution immediately or get better in the time you expected. The last thing you want would be to make them feel rushed and not understood. Also, remember to keep mum about their problems if they have made it clear that it is a personal issue, or if this is obviously something that should not be made known to others. Your friend deserves the respect from you.
As you two move on with your lives, don’t forget to keep in touch and check on your friend regularly. A weekly phone call, or a simple good-night text everyday can make a huge difference to your depressed friend.
If you feel like your friend needs professional help, or is asking you to help him or her beyond your means, please do not force yourself to go out of your capabilities to help this friend – it may end up worse than if you had sought professional advice. You can research online for professional advice (from credible sources of course), or call professional hotlines. They may just have the relevant knowledge and skills that is needed to help your friend.
Last but not least, take care of yourself. A person who is capable of taking care of himself or herself would be in a better position to help someone else. Do not compromise your own well-being too much as it may end up hurting your depressed friend.
As a private tuition, FamilyTutor hopes that this article has truly been beneficial for you and wishes you well! 🙂
By the way, the ‘Simply Advice’ series conveniently gives you information that is useful any day any time. It aims to shed some light on pertinent topics and provide you with the best advice!
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