How to Be a Good Friend to Someone with Depression

Depression is a disease of isolation.

I make this claim because depressed people spend a lot of time in their head, with their own thoughts. Those thoughts often come from a place of sadness, discontent, and discouragement. At least, that was my story.

Surrounded by negative thoughts, I was angry, hurt, and afraid. Being around other people was actually painful because everyone looked happy and appeared satisfied with their lives. That was not my experience. So, I preferred to be alone, with my thoughts, maybe a movie and my bed.

However, there was one person who kept reaching out to me in the abyss of my darkness, a friend who literally saved my life. How? By the way she supported me. Here are five ways she showed her love:

1. Active listening

Although it seems like an easy step to complete, it can be the hardest act for humanity to do. We don’t have time to truly listen because we want to rush back to our cell phones, Facebook, or Instagram.

Active listening requires emptying your brain of any responses that arise while someone talks to you. Active listening also means removing the distractions in order to fully hear another soul’s cry.

What many non-depressed people don’t understand is that the speaker is cleansing their soul by expressing their negative emotions. Those emotions become less powerful the more the speaker acknowledges their presence and discards them.

So please, take the time to listen.

2. Don’t offer solutions

Again, this may be hard to do, but it is critical. Offering a solution to someone who is depressed may make them angry.

Withholding the right to “solve” someone’s depression is important because it means you 1) heard their cries of discomfort; and 2) acknowledge that those feelings are not right or wrong; they just are. Being able and willing to let someone sit in their own discomfort can be a difficult task, but supporting them on the journey to finding a solution is a great way to be a friend.

3. Give the gift of human touch.

A hug or gentle shoulder rub can mean a lot to someone who is depressed. It has been said that when we experience the power of human touch, our levels of stress decrease, comfort is eased, and people heal quicker.

Someone who has depression is in inner turmoil. Chances are the words spoken in their head are mean, guilt-ridden, fierce, and, damaging. Counteracting those thoughts with a loving touch or a healing embrace can go a long way to quieting discomforting thoughts.

4. Thank them for their courage

The last thing a hurting person feels is courage. Yet it takes a huge amount of courage to admit one does not feel well emotionally. When someone chooses you to share those feelings with you, it is okay to feel honored. It is even more special to say to someone, “Thank you for sharing that with me. Those are some painful experiences you are having. I am inspired by your courage. I am grateful you chose me to share those thoughts.”

5. Be kind

We know intellectually that love is patient and kind. But what does kindness look like?

To someone struggling with depression, kindness looks like watching a movie with them and not saying anything. It means sitting still and staring out the window while holding their hand. It can also mean taking a step back if you feel overwhelmed by their negative emotions. Although you may choose to reduce the amount of physical presence, a card telling the person you are thinking of them goes a long way.

Originally published on January 24, 2017.

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