I’m stoked for this guest post from ZENCARE on how to help a friend through depression because I too have experienced depression.
We talk a lot about self-care on this blog, and I believe SELF-CARE IS COMMUNITY CARE. We help ourselves when we support the ones around us. And we can lean on our peeps for care and love when things get tough. This is also a timely topic to address during Pride Month. More than half of transgender male teens reported attempting suicide in their lifetime, while 29.9 percent of transgender female teens said they attempted suicide. Among non-binary youth, 41.8 percent had also attempted suicide.
So if any of this hits home for you, read on to hear how to help a friend through depression.
Your care and support can go a long way when trying to help a friend through depression. While, of course, you can’t act as their therapist, you can help them by getting them set up with professional support.
Here are five steps to doing exactly that:
Step 1: Start an open, non-judgemental conversation about your concern
a) gives your friend the opportunity to talk about what’s on their mind, and
b) shows how much you care about them.
Not sure how to go about opening up the conversation? Here are some “do” and “don’t” starting points:
- Pick the right time and place, when you both have some downtime (such as on the weekend).
- Pick a safe space, ideally somewhere you friend feels comfortable and familiar.
- Stay positive! Keep your tone welcoming and compassionate.
- Ask too many interrogative questions, or questions that your friend could perceive as interrogative.
- Bring up the conversation in front of other people, since you want to keep your friend relaxed and let them know you are a trusted confidante.
- Make it about yourself. Yes, everyone (including you) has gone through hard times – but everyone’s experiences are also different! You also want the conversation to circle around your friend, not you – so do your best not to interject.
Step 2: Have a plan for what you’re going to say – and stay compassionate
To help a friend through depression, start the conversation off right! Here are a few easy, gentle prompts to consider:
- “Hey, how are you doing with everything? I’ve noticed you seem a bit low lately, and I just wanted to say that you can always talk to me if that’s something you would like to do.”
- “I wanted to let you know that I’m so grateful for you! And I care about you a ton – so I’m hoping to talk to you about something.”
- “The other day, I noticed you weren’t really acting like your usual self – would you like to talk about it?”
If you’re at a loss for how to open the talk, put yourself in their shoes: How would you like someone to approach you about a situation like this?
Maintaining compassion while helping a friend through depression is key for the conversation to go well. Let them know with your compassionate reactions that no matter what they say or how badly they might feel, you’ll be there for them when they need you.
Step 3: If they’re ready to seek therapy, offer to help them find a great fit
If you feel comfortable bringing up the topic of therapy or other types of help, encourage your friend to reach out to a professional!
Here are some ways to help them get started:
- Research online with your friend: Many people start their search for a therapist online. On platforms like Zencare, for example, you can watch therapist videos to get a sense of what each practice is like. Your friend can set up free calls with each therapist to learn more, too.
- Ask around for recommendations in your area: It’s often helpful to hear from people that you trust about the resources in your community, such as support groups or meetings.
- Brush up on the different types of therapy: For example, your friend may respond well to certain therapy types, like cognitive behavioral therapy or acceptance and commitment therapy. Let them know they have different options, and there’s no right or wrong with therapy preferences! Encourage them to shop around for a therapist who uses one or more approaches that feels right for them.
There are many dimensions of effective therapy, ranging from the type of therapy treatment to the personality of the therapist, so make sure your friend picks out professionals they’re the most hopeful about.
Step 4: Help your friend prepare for treatment
Once your friend has narrowed down options for therapists – and they’re ready to start treatment – help them prepare logistically.
- Prepare for the initial phone call: The initial phone call is the first time your friend will speak with a potential therapist, so encourage them to prepare questions like:
- How long does each appointment (with X therapist) last?
- What is (X therapist’s) approach?
- Does (X therapist) have experience working with other clients in similar situations? of similar backgrounds?
- Know where to go and what to do: Help your friend figure out logistical and timing details, such as:
- Where is the office located?
- Do I pay before or after sessions?
- How long will the first session be? (Intakes are often longer, around 50-60 minutes.)
- Figure out payment: There are different options for paying for therapy, depending on your friend’s coverage and what each therapist accepts. Options include:
Step 5: Remain patient, encouraging, and supportive throughout the process
The best thing you can do as a friend is to simply be there in a way that effectively communicates that you care. Having multiple conversations about depression – and its treatment – before your friend takes any action is completely okay. Let them know you’ll be by their side – physically or figuratively – until they’re feeling better.
Don’t be afraid to check in every once in a while, too. People with depression often feel isolated and alone – one of the most helpful things you can do as a friend is to let them know that they’re not.
This is a guest post from Zencare, a website that helps people find their ideal talk therapist. Visit Zencare.co to browse their vetted network of top therapists – using criteria like insurance, sliding scale, location, and specialties. You can also directly book a free assessment call from the Zencare site!