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HOW TO HELP A FRIEND

It can be difficult to know how to help a friend in need.

Here's a toolkit to give you some resources.

The WArNING SIGNS

Personality Changes

A person has noticiable personality changes.

Loss of Interest

A person loses interest in the things that they once enjoyed.

Unusual neglect of personal appearance and stop caring even about basic grooming.

Neglect of Personal Apperance

Changes in Sleep

Person gets more sleep than normal or less than normal.

Sudden Mood Changes

Unwarranted anger, frustration or outbursts of sadness are also common with depression. Keep an eye out for any drastic mood swings.

Withdrawal

Person gets more sleep than normal or less than normal.

Physical Symptoms

Unusual neglect of personal appearance and stop caring even about basic grooming.

Reckless Behavior

Person gets more sleep than normal or less than normal.

How to talk to the friend

Listen

  • Ask them how they are feeling

  • Validate what they are feeling, and remember, there's difference between valid and justified; every emotion is valid, because it's what the person is feeling, but it doesn't mean the feeling is justified

  • Show empathy and practice engaged body language

  • They might not like talking at first, but it's important for them to feel as though they have someone who cares and who will hear them

Examples of Things You Can Say To Validate

  • "I care"

  • "That sounds difficult"

  • "I'm here for you"

  • "Is there anything I can do to help?"

  • "Do you need someone to talk to?"

  • "Your life makes a difference to me"

  • "It's okay to feel this way"

  • "You aren't weak"

  • "You might not see it now, but I promise there's hope"

  • "You can do this. I'll be right by your side"

Help Them Find Support

  • Remember that although it's nice to have a friend, that it's essential that someone who is struggling talks to a professional, so that they can receive clinical help with the feelings that they might be having

  • Offer to help them review therapists and go with them the first time if they need so that they don't feel overwhelmed

Take Care of Yourself

  • Practice self-care​ to allow yourself to recharge and process how you, yourself are feeling about what your friend has said

  • Sometimes when you are friends with someone who has depression, it can be difficult for you to distance yourself and not feel overwhelmed with what they might be saying

Do Your Research

  • Read about symptoms, causes, and treatments, so that it's easier to have the conversations

  • Learning about these​ will show the person that you really care about what they are feeling and are doing what you can to help them​

Extend Invitations

  • Sometimes when people are struggling with depression, it can be difficult for them to energy or strength to reach out and invite others to hangout, for this reason, one of the most important things you can do to show them you care is to invite them to spend time with you

  • Another thing that can happen is that they might feel so exhausted that they decline plans, but what matters is that they know someone wants to hangout with them

  • Try to remind them that you would be happy to spend time with them whenever they are ready to

One of the other most important things to remember is to be patient. It's hard to struggle with depression, and to care about someone who has depression. Be patient with them, and yourself. It's difficult to always know what to do, but what matters is that you are trying.

If they don't respond the way you hoped

If they push you away...

  • It might seem easier to allow them to push you away, but sometimes when people push others away, it's a sign that they just want someone to really push them to talk about their feelings

  • It's essential that you nudge them in the direction of talking, even if they don't say much, the more you ask and try, the more likely they will be willing to open up; show initiative and perseverance

If they say they are fine...

  • In therapy, we learned that fine stands for "Feelings I'm Not Expressing." Most often people become accustomed to saying fine, because they don't want to be seen as a burden to those that they care about, or are used to telling their parents/guardians that

  • Ask again. Show that you recognize that there is something that's going on.

If they tell you that they won't trust you anymore if you tell anyone...

  • Yes, this puts you in a difficult situation, but you need to understand that it's essential speak up and advocate if your friend will not take the actions for themselves

  • It is better to know your friend is safe then worry about them constantly in danger

  • In the past, even though I was mad at my friends for telling an adult, I then realized without it, I would likely not be alive today, and try to show my friends everyday that I am grateful for them speaking up for me, when I couldn't

Why it matters

Although it's a lot of work, taking the initiative and going the extra mile to help a friend struggling through depression or other mental illnesses will help them through this journey. They will be able to see that someone cares and wants them to get better, even when they feel as though it's impossible. It might be a lot of work, but we promise that it will make a difference in their life and yours to know that you are doing what you can to support them.

SOURCES