What Can I Do for My Depressed Friend?

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

Depression. It’s 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 (clinical, sometimes called unipolar)) depression is a chronic disease, and as such has 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 great emotional pain.

You are not helpless when it comes to supporting your depressed friend through this disease. There are countless ways to just “be there,” and I discuss these in many of my blogs. Here are three basic actions you can take to help your depressed friend.

1) Encourage your friend to get professional help. The high recovery rate includes medication, talk therapy, and support group treatments. Many people like myself utilize a combination or 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 has stopped taking medication. Fear of addiction, unpleasant side effects, and cost are three of the reasons I have heard.

I met a young man who was feeling alone and had just attempted suicide. He said he wished someone would show him care without judgement by asking each day if he remembered to take his medication. Some people like this man discontinue medication too soon because of a false sense of wellness due to feeling better.

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!

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 and, of course, experience more mental health as a result.

Accepting your friend and the disease of depression 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 though depression tells us otherwise sometimes.  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 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 is yours.

*pictures from rgbstock.com

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