Help! My friend is depressed!

It can be so scary to hear your friend say s/he is experiencing depression or anxiety.  It's hard to know how to help while still respecting his/her privacy.  You may not know if suicidal thoughts are an issue.  Since most people will face some form of emotional illness at some point in life, you undoubtedly know people who are struggling right now.  One of the worst parts of mental illness is the way that it isolates its victims from help - a depressed person feels that s/he doesn't deserve or shouldn't need help; an anxious person is too afraid to leave to house to get the help s/he needs.  

How can you help a friend in trouble?  While not an exhaustive list, this will give you a few ideas.  

  • If your friend expresses that s/he wants to commit suicide, get immediate help.  You can go to an emergency room or call a crisis hotline.  In the US, call 1-800-273-8255 (TALK).  If your friend refuses to get help immediately, you can call the police and ask them to perform a wellness check.  They will go to the person's home and check on him/her and may take him/her to get additional help at the emergency room or at an inpatient mental health facility.  
  • Encourage your friend to get help.  You are not responsible for your friend's behavior, and s/he may refuse to seek counseling.  In this case, do not try to be your her/his therapist.  Listen to what s/he has to say, but feel free to continue to encourage your friend to see a qualified professional.  
  • Do not try to "cheer her up" by reminding her that things will look better tomorrow, or that she has always been such a happy person, or that she is wrong about her feelings. In doing so, you make her feel like it's wrong for her to feel the way she does.  You can, however, try to cheer him/her up by taking him/her out to do something fun or stay in and have fun.  
  • If you believe in a higher power, use spirituality to help.  Pray for/with your friend.  
  • Don't shy away from this topic with him/her.  It can be intimidating, but all you need to ask is, "how are you feeling?"  
  • Keep your friend close.  S/he may want to avoid social opportunities, but it's important that you keep inviting him/her to events and that you keep after him/her to join you.  S/he may not be the soul of joy right now, but s/he needs to get out.  
  • Keep an eye on your own mood.  Caretakers often forget that they can easily slide into depression themselves.  If you are spending significant time helping a friend or family member, you may need to see a counselor yourself for a few sessions to help you deal with this stress.  Sweetwater Counseling has experience with caretaker stress.  Call or email to talk about this..  
The above is for informational purposes only.  Consult your mental health professional for help.