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10 Things To Remember When You Help A Depressed Friend

10 Things To Remember When You Help A Depressed Friend

Most people don’t really know how to react when a depressed friend confides in them. When this happens, we have to be very sensitive in our actions and with what we say and don’t say, but often these things aren’t very intuitive. I should know because I’ve made many mistakes myself, and only realized later that I had made them. Thus, I’ve made a list of 10 things that we should always remember when helping a depressed friend.

1. Remember to listen

This one is so obvious. But I needed to say it because being able to listen attentively is especially crucial here. Do not get distracted, ignore those text messages for a bit, and focus all your energy and attention on your friend. The least you can do, really, is to make your friend feel important and like he or she really matters right now.

Your friend needs you. Be a good listener and don’t assume you already know what they have to tell you. It is an honor that your friend chose you to open up to, instead of someone else. Tread lightly.

2. Remember not to judge

The time your friend will need extra love from you is when they are feeling utterly depressed. As Mother Teresa said, “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” That is true. There is no way you can help someone when you’re coming from a place of judgment.

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Everybody judges other people to a certain extent. I’m no exception. But this is definitely not the time for that. Do not tell your friend how sorry they should be feeling – 99.9% of the time you are entirely wrong about what exactly your friend is going through.

3. Remember not to compare

More often than not, life is relative. We have our own standards. If your friend is genuinely depressed at failing to achieve that A grade, don’t tell them that they shouldn’t be, just because half of the class failed. Likewise, if your friend is suffering from extreme loneliness, don’t go saying something like, “Well, I’m pretty lonely too.”

All this is useless stuff and it either does not add any value, or it makes your friend feel worse. Drop it, seriously. You might as well tell your friend how terrible they are for feeling depressed when there are people starving with no roof over their heads.

4. Remember never to suppress their emotions

Another thing that adds zero value is telling your depressed friend to ‘be strong.’ Or not to cry. What does being strong even mean? And definitely don’t tell your friend to just ‘snap out of it.’ It doesn’t work, period.

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This is not the time to dictate what your friend should be doing or feeling. Your friend needs connection. They need someone to share the burden with, not to miraculously rise up to the occasion and suddenly become ‘strong.’ It’s not on you to fix anything.

If your friend just needs a day to get over it, so be it. The same if they need ten or thirty days. Your job is to be there for them, and not to say something like, “You shouldn’t be brooding over it for more than three days.” Ultimately, recovery is in the hands of the depressed person alone.

5. Remember to express empathy

Shame and vulnerability researcher Dr. Brené Brown says it best here. Feeling with people.

“The truth is, rarely can a response make something better. What makes something better, is connection.”

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6. Remember to offer support

Do what it takes so that your friend feels like you have got their back. Make sure you mean what you say. Telling your friend how much you care, or even telling them that you won’t let them go through this ordeal alone is oh, so easy. Prove it with your actions.

Call again the next day to check on your friend. Sacrifice an entire day to be with them. Send a hand-written note. If you’re busy at work, send a digital hug to let them know that they’re not alone. Remember, it’s not so much what you say or do, it’s how you make your friend feel.

7. Remember to make physical contact

Where possible, physical contact always helps. Be it a tap on your friend’s hand or arm, a pat on the back, an arm around the shoulder, or better still, a nice warm hug.

All these things release oxytocin in the body and fuel the connection between the two of you. And when one is depressed, what one really craves for is connection. Because as Dr. Brené Brown has already mentioned, your words rarely help anyway. So shut up and just give your friend a big hug. Show them some love.

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8. Remember to be patient

What I mean by this is that your friend may say hurtful things and become very difficult to handle. Your friend might appear to be impossible to deal with. Just remember that this is not really him or her. This is the depression in your friend. It is temporary.

Depression might also make it hard for your friend to connect with anyone around them, even if you happen to be their close friend. They might be emotionless. Be patient and do not take it personally.

9. Depression is serious business

Depression is a serious illness. Understand that something terrible or traumatic does not need to happen for someone to be depressed. It can happen for no rhyme or reason. And it isn’t just about being in an extremely sad state. In fact, someone can be silently suffering from depression and yet look totally fine. If you suspect a friend is depressed, encourage them to seek medical treatment as well.

10. Remember not to neglect yourself

Lastly, do take care of yourself. If your friend is depressed, it can bring you down no matter how hard you try to help and show your care and concern. Know when to pull back and when you are doing yourself more of a disfavor than a favor for your friend. You may even have to be selective right from the beginning sometimes, so choose wisely. Always remember to love and respect yourself too.

Featured photo credit: Felipe Morin via flickr.com

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Last Updated on June 24, 2019

Why Social Media Might Be Causing Depression

Why Social Media Might Be Causing Depression

A study [1] published in Depression and Anxiety found that social media users are more likely to be depressed. This was just one of the huge number of studies linking social media and depression[2] . But why exactly do platforms like Facebook and Instagram make people so unhappy? Well, we don’t know yet for sure, but there are some explanations.

Social Media Could Lead to Depression

Depression is a serious medical condition that affects how you think, feel, and behave. Social media may lead to depression in predisposed individuals or make existing symptoms of depression[3] worse explains[4] the study above’s senior author Dr. Brian Primack. So, the problem may not be in social media per se, but how we use it.

Signs You’re Suffering From “Social Media Depression”

If you feel like social media is having a negative impact on your mood, then you may be suffering from “social media depression.” Look for symptoms like:

• low self-esteem,

• negative self-talk,

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• a low mood,

• irritability,

• a lack of interest in activities once enjoyed,

• and social withdrawal.

If you’ve had these symptoms for more than two weeks and if this is how you feel most of the time, then you are likely depressed. Although “social media depression “is not a term recognized in the medical setting, social media depression seems to be a real phenomenon affecting around 50% of social media users. As explained in a review study[5] published in Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, if a person has a certain predisposition to depression and other mental disorders, social media use may only worsen their mental health.

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Social Media Could Crush Self-Esteem

We know that social media and depression are in some way linked, but why is this so? Well, according to Igor Pantic, MD, Ph.D.[6], social media use skews your perception about other people’s lives and traits. To explain this further, most people like to portray an idealized image of their lives, personal traits, and appearance on sites like Facebook and Instagram. If you confuse this idealized image with reality, you may be under the false impression that everyone is better than you which can crush your self-esteem and lead to depression. This is especially true for teens and young adults who are more likely to compare themselves to others. If you already suffer from low self-esteem, the illusion that everyone has it better off than you will just make you feel worse.

Causing Social Isolation and Other Negative Emotions

Another commonly cited reason for the negative impact of social media on mental health is its link with social isolation. Depressed people are more likely to isolate themselves socially and chose only to interact indirectly through social media platforms. But communication online tends to be superficial and is lacking when compared to real-life interaction explains Panic. What this means is not that social media leads to isolation but the other way around, possibly explaining why we find so many depressed persons on these sites.

Lastly, social media use may generate negative emotions in you like envy, jealousy, dislike, loneliness, and many others and this may worsen your depressive symptoms.

Why We Need to Take This Seriously

Both depression and social media use are on the rise according to epidemiological studies. Since each one has an impact on the other, we have to start thinking of healthier ways to use social media. Teens and young adults are especially vulnerable to the negative impact of social media on mental health.

Advice on Social Media Use

Although these findings did not provide any cause-effect explanation regarding Facebook and depression[7], they still do prove that social media use may not be a good way to handle depression. For this reason, the leading authors of these studies gave some suggestions as to how clinicians and people can make use of such findings.

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One suggestion is that clinicians should ask patients about their social media habits. Then they can advise them on how to change their outlook on social media use or even suggest limiting their time spent on social media.

Some social media users may also exhibit addictive behavior; they may spend too much time due to compulsive urges. Any compulsive behavior is bound to lead to feelings of guilt which can worsen depressive symptoms.

Having Unhealthy Relationship with Social Media

If you feel like your relationship with social media is unhealthy, then consider the advice on healthy social media use provided by psychology experts from Links Psychology[8]:

Avoid negative social comparison – always keep in mind that how people portray themselves and their lives on social media is not a realistic picture, but rather an idealized one. Also, avoid comparing yourself to others because this behavior can lead to negative self-talk.

Remember that social media is not a replacement for real life – Social media is great for staying in touch and having fun, but it should never replace real-world interactions.

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Avoid releasing personal information – For your safety and privacy, make sure to be careful with what you post online.

Report users who bully and harass you – It’s easy to be a bully in the anonymous and distant world of social media. Don’t take such offense personally and report those who abuse social media to harass others.

The bits of advice listed above can help you establish a healthy relationship with social media. Always keep these things in mind to avoid losing an objective perspective of what social media is and how it is different from real life. If you are currently suffering from depression, talk to your doctor about what is bothering you so that you can get the treatment you need to get better. Tell your doctor about your social media use and see if they could give you some advice on this topic.

Reference

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