5 Little Ways to Show Up for a Friend Who’s Depressed

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Written By Rivera Claudia

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We all want to see our friends happy and thriving. But when someone close to you is dealing with depression, it can be hard to figure out the best way to support them.

Unless you’re a therapist, it makes sense to assume that you’re not equipped to make a real difference. Maybe you’re struggling to find the right words to bring up your concerns (like noticing your pal is less bubbly than usual) without seeming nosy. Or, perhaps you’re clueless about how to comfort them without resorting to clichéd phrases (“Don’t worry, things will get better!).

People can experience depression symptoms in different ways, Alexandra Vlahakes, PsyD, a Boston-based therapist specializing in depression and the owner of Harmony Psychology, tells SELF. “If they’re more socially withdrawn, reaching out less, or not engaging in hobbies they usually enjoy, they could be feeling depressed,” Dr. Vlahakes says. Other common signs include experiencing persistent emptiness, hopelessness, or fatigue for at least two weeks.

The most common treatments for depression are therapy, medication, or a combination of both. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t things you, as a friend, can do to support your pal’s mental health. Here, therapists share some simple, practical ways to show up for a loved one during these low points.

1. Bring up your concerns in a non-confrontational, non-judgmental way.

Maybe you sense something’s off with your pal, or they’ve dropped subtle hints (like rarely leaving their apartment). Perhaps they’ve even straight-up told you they’re dealing with depression.

Regardless of the specific situation, all of the experts we spoke with say it’s important to voice your concerns gently. “Start by letting them know that you appreciate them talking about this, or that you’re here to listen if there’s something they want to talk about,” Dr. Vlahakes says. Discussing depression can feel awkward at first, especially if your friend hasn’t brought it up directly, so she also suggests saying something like, “I’ve noticed you haven’t been as responsive to my texts, and that seemed unlike you. Is everything okay?” Or, “You seemed a little down the last time I saw you, so I wanted to check in about how you’re doing.”

Approaching this sensitive topic with empathy and curiosity can help your friend feel more supported—and less judged, Dr. Vlahakes says. And hopefully, they’ll also feel more comfortable opening up to you about what they’re going through—and less isolated—as a result, she adds.

2. Talk less and listen more.

When your friend shares their struggles with you, it might be tempting to swoop in with a bunch of quick fixes. Therapy! Self-help books! A brisk walk outside! But you should hold off on the unsolicited advice, Lauren Moy, PhD, clinical psychologist specializing in depressive disorders at Madison Park Psychological Services in New York, tells SELF.

“It’s not uncommon to launch into problem-solving mode when you see your friend suffering,” Dr. Moy says. As well-meaning as this approach is, though, “these suggestions, even from loved ones, might come off as judgmental or give the impression that they’re not trying ‘hard enough’ to manage their symptoms.” For instance, seemingly “easy” remedies—like stepping outside or hanging out together—can actually feel like herculean tasks for a person who can barely get out of bed, Dr. Moy says.

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