5 Ways To Support A Depressed Friend

Chris McQueen

#3 Don’t expect anything in return


Photo by Kat Jayne from Pexels

Over the last few years, a good friend of mine has fallen into depression. The effects of loneliness throughout the course of this pandemic, have made his situation even worse.

It’s tough to see a vibrant and energetic young man sink into a bottomless hole.

Sadly, our normal support network hasn’t been able to give him the human interaction he needs most, due to the virus. This realisation has led a group of friends to come up with a remote support plan to help our friend in need.

In this story, I want to share five ways how we have been able to deal with depression and how you can do likewise.

However, I want to issue a disclaimer at the start of this post:

My friends and I are not experts in the field of depression. Our advice will be entirely based on our experiences and what we feel helps our friend best. Please take this advice in addition to the treatment of depression-experts.

#1 Acknowledge depression as a mental illness

The hardest part with any mental health problem is to admit to its existence.

Let me rephrase that: If you have a mental health issue, you will try to cover it up as good as you can.

Compare depression to addiction. You go through 3 phases of realisation:

  1. You are addicted to a substance, and you can’t stop with your own willpower.
  2. To prevent family or friends from embarrassment, you try and cover up your addiction through denial.
  3. A family member or friend finds out that something is wrong. They confirm your worst nightmare when they say: “You have an addiction. You will need treatment.”

Similarly, depression is a form of addiction. You can fall into the trap of negative thoughts that continue to spiral downwards.

Although I do believe depression needs a different form of treatment to addiction, there are still similarities in the realisation phase.

Depression is a real thing.

It is dangerous if left untreated.

We don’t like thinking about worst-case scenarios. But most severely depressed people have suicidal thoughts.

How do we cope with that on a personal level?

Actionable advice:

  • Contact a mental health specialist.
  • Create an awareness of the dangers to immediate family and friends

#2 Create a support group

As our friend is part of our church, we had a virtual meeting with all the other young people.

About 15 of us met on Zoom to think about how we could help our friend and create a support group.

It was an amazing feeling to share the urgency of the situation with others. We created an environment where some could offload, and others provide advice.

Suddenly, a weight was lifted off our shoulders. We didn’t have to carry the entire weight of the depression on our own anymore. Over 15 people could carry the load.

As the bible puts it best in Galatians:

“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfil the law of Christ.”

Now we try to meet and play games with our friend every Monday evening. It’s a great way to stay in touch despite the increased restrictions.

As a matter of fact, the support group helps each other. We can help not only our depressed friend but also one another.

Actionable advice:

  • Find a group of likeminded people to support your depressed friend
  • Set up a regular meeting with all members of the group
  • Touch base often, to reflect on your goals and progress so far

#3 Don’t expect anything in return

After getting into the weekly sessions and occasional meet-ups during the week, there were a few things that really drove me up the wall.

Whenever we’d have our friend round, played an online game, got him groceries or just listened to his struggles, we did not receive a word of thanks.

This really annoyed me, and I thought of why he did not appreciate our best efforts.

It turns out I had a lot to learn.

Thanks to modern communication, I was able to find out a little more on the side-effects of depression.

One of these was gratitude. It didn’t exist.

Our depressed friend is so focused on his own mental state. He doesn’t have the energy to be out looking.

My sister was able to have a meaningful conversation with him the other day.

She found out that he doesn’t care about others at the moment. And forcing this upon a depressed man is like rubbing salt in the wound.

It finally made sense. Of course, we can’t expect a depressed person to be outgoing and interested in our lives. So even gratitude was something I expected that was too hard to put into practice.

Actionable advice:

  • Be flexible with how you react to the effects of the depression
  • Ask the therapist for advice on how to deal with the specific depression in your case
  • Do your own research on the topic — understand the underlying issue

#4 Plan real experiences

So what can we do, if we don’t feel appreciated for our hard efforts?

Plan real experiences.

In our case, personal interaction literally transformed our friend. Whenever we were allowed to visit him, watch a movie together, go for walks, play a game or eat a meal together, he would start opening up.

Sadly, that wasn’t always possible. Our friend lived alone and was isolated from people for weeks on end, unable to interact with others.

Covid-19 made it even harder to meet up as a group and give him the real-life experiences he needed most.

Our plans for 2021 will be to get out and be more active with our friend by our side. We will hike the mountains, play volleyball and enjoy the evenings together.

Until then, we can stay in touch via the internet. Not ideal, but the best option out there.

Actionable advice:

  • Make an action plan, for when you can meet in person again. These plans will motivate your depressed friend
  • Keep up the weekly meetings. Allow him/her to speak
  • Invite him/her around for small events. Little things go a long way

#5 Find inner peace

This last action point is on a more personal level. However, I truly think it is the most important.

Whatever life throws at us, we need to find inner peace. Believers in God will come to him through prayer; others might practice meditation.

How we get this peace depends on our values and beliefs.

I come to God in prayer, and he takes away my worries.

As Paul writes in the letter to the Philippians:

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.”

This mindset helps me deal with the worries of our depressed friend.

It’s tough to hear his suicidal thoughts and death wishes and remain confident.

But through meditation and prayer, we can receive an incredible amount of peace.

We can pass on our worries and give our busy minds a rest.

If you struggle with the effects of the depression of a loved one, try meditation or prayer.

James writes:

“The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.”

Your positive attitude will be a great encouragement to your depressed loved one.

Actionable advice:

  • Bring peace into your life through prayer and meditation
  • Consequently, you will have more energy to help your depressed friend
  • Radiate this peace. It will reflect on all those around you!

Wrapping it up

I’ve thought a long time about sharing these action points with my readers.

I wish to encourage and motivate all those who are suffering from the effects of depression themselves or of others.

Living with depression will never be easy. And while it might get better for a while, it won’t ever be gone.

To sum it up, here are the key points in a nutshell:

  1. Acknowledge depression as a mental illness
  2. Create a support group
  3. Don’t expect anything in return
  4. Plan real experiences
  5. Find inner peace

The story of our friend is not finished.

We will leave it in Gods hands to see what he will provide.

Thanks for reading.

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