Very often we come across a situation in which one or more of our friends show constant signs of unhappiness. They come across as disinterested in any plans that you propose, show signs of low self esteem and confidence and seem negative about most things. This isn’t just a phase that they are going through it’s an illness like any other physical illness and it can be treated. It’s a mark of true friendship to understand what your friend is going through instead of calling your friend ‘no fun’ or boring or the plethora of terms we have insensitively used for people under depression. Following are the Do’s and Don’ts when talking to a friend under depression.
This is the best thing that you can do to counsel your friend. They may not be willing to talk initially but with time they will open up to you. Listen to their problems, their feelings and what they are going through. Prompt them when they stop talking or hesitate. Remember, the ability to get better lies within ourselves along with the ability to solve our own emotional problems. You just need to help them feel strong enough to take the decisions they need to take.
This might be obvious but somehow it isn’t. A person who is depressed may take longer than you to come out of a situation. Saying things like ‘Hey, just snap out of it’ or ‘This isn’t a big deal, other’s go through worst’ are never the right things to say. This kind of argument might work for you but for many comparing their situation with someone else’s appears to be trivialising their own problems. Sympathise with your friend and primarily tell them you are there for them no matter how long it takes for them to feel better.
Whenever your friend shows signs of doing something positive for themselves, encourage them to. Let them come up with their own solutions unless they ask you for the same. Show genuine appreciation for any effort that they take to get better and healthier.
When your friend confides in you, listen as a detached observer. It will only become harder for your friend to open up if you knock them down by being judgemental of their situation or the choices that they have made. Listen more, speak less.
What your friend tells you should be confidential between the two of you. It will be a huge break of trust if you reveal anything said in confidence to another unless absolutely necessary. If you friend shows suicidal tendencies then yes, it is advised that he/she be referred to a counsellor immediately. Also if a situation seems difficult to handle emotionally, intervention by a counsellor might be required again.
Mental health awareness is absolutely necessary as it is one of the biggest barriers people with mental illnesses face in their efforts to get better. Being aware and giving a helping hand where needed will award you with infinite joy at watching your loved ones recover from the disease!