What Can I Do for My Depressed Friend?

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness (c)2015  Nancy Virden

Depression is talked about more often these days, and rightfully so. Either the number of people who struggle with it has risen or we are opening up to admitting it. Two-thirds of the estimated 35,000 reported suicides each year are related to depression. Clearly, a decrease in untreated depression will lower suicide rates.

Suicide is preventable. Major depression may have remissions and recurrences at variable levels. Untreated depression tends to increase in intensity and frequency as a person ages. That said, treated depression has a success rate of about 80%  Because most suicides are depression-related, that’s a lot of people who are walking around alive despite having struggled with severe emotional pain.

You are not helpless when it comes to supporting your depressed friend through this crisis. There are countless ways to just “be there.” Here are three basic actions you can take.

1) Encourage your friend to get professional help. The high recovery rate includes medication, talk therapy, support group attendance and often all three. Still, nearly one half of those who struggle with depression do not receive appropriate help. Your support in locating proficient services is priceless. 

2) Remind your friend to take prescribed medications. We’ve heard of unsuccessful recoveries, some of which are due to noncompliance. That simply means the one with depression does not take medication as prescribed.

I met a young man who was feeling alone and had just attempted suicide. He said he wished someone would show him care without judgment by asking each day if he remembered to take his medication. 

3) Encourage your friend to engage in a support group. I used to think the term “support group” sounded ominous and useless, that strangers sat around a table and poured out self-pity to each other for an hour or two. I was so wrong!

Helpful support groups are by and large made up of people who care, understand, and meet together because finding non-judgmental support outside the group room is rare. Your friend will benefit greatly from connecting with others who “get it” and who can offer relevant wisdom. People in support groups are nearly 90% more compliant with treatment. 

Accepting your friend without assuming to have the answers is key to your relationship and effective helping. Your friend does not have to feel all alone and uncared for even if depression tells us otherwise. With compassionate love, you and your friend can form a successful team,  beat depression back,  and curb tragic statistics.

On more ideas for helping, see the depression and bipolar alliance article “Help Others” at http://www.dbsalliance.org/site/PageServer?pagename=help_landing

Resources include:




NOTE: I am not a doctor or a mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help are yours.

*pictures from rgbstock.com

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