Depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the world. It involves a persistent feeling of sadness and a loss of interest in everything. These feelings may interfere with daily life and productivity.
Side note: being sad doesn’t mean you’re depressed. There are many differences between depression and sadness.
It might be hard to know if your friend is depressed because depression has no physical signs. In fact, chronically depressed people can be the life of the party or the funniest and most vibrant people you’ve ever met!
This makes me think of Tayo, a friend I met at the beach last year. He was a party animal, fun, and very energetic. There’s hardly any club he hasn’t been to in Lagos. And when Tayo walked into any place, everyone felt his presence. But he battled depression for years and attempted suicide many times. And no one could tell.
So, that’s how tricky it is, but you can look out for some telltale signs of depression. A depressed person would show symptoms like:
What should you do if you’ve observed any of these signs and think your friend is depressed?
Everyone experiences down times, and it’s great to be there for your friends, but it’s safe to be sure you’re not making a mountain of a molehill. They may be withdrawing from social activities because they’re having a bad day. They may find it hard to focus because they’ve not been sleeping well.
So, start an objective conversation to confirm your observations, but don’t be pushy or questioning. For instance, “Hey, you seem a little down lately. Is everything okay?’ Ease into the conversation and make it about them.
Don’t force them to if they don’t want to talk about it. Remember: the conversation is not about you. Just reassure them that you’re there for them and willing to listen whenever they’re ready to talk.
On the flip side, if they decide to talk about their feelings, don’t be quick to jump in and offer unsolicited advice. Instead, ask them what they need, like, “I’m here for you. Do you need advice, reassurance, or just want me to listen?”
Also, listen actively and don’t judge. Again, this is about your friend and not you.
This is one of the best ways to help a friend with depression. Knowing what depression entails will help you better understand your friend and support them in ways that matter. So, read everything about depression — its causes, types of depression, and how to deal with it.
If you find out that your friend is depressed, help them seek help from a mental health professional. Make them understand that going to therapy doesn’t mean they’re insane or weak, and reassure them that they have your support.
Also, therapy is not like taking Paracetamol for a headache. A therapist won’t snap their finger and cure depression instantly. Instead, therapy will help them understand what they’re experiencing and how to cope.
So, help them find a good therapist that meets their needs. Platforms like mytherapist.ng can help you connect with qualified therapists.
And if they want to quit for whatever reason, be there to encourage them that therapy is worth it. Be calm and gentle, not aggressive.
Even if your friend is getting help, watch closely for any indicators of their mental health worsening. For instance:
A depressed person may avoid reaching out to anyone; believe me, I know how hard it is to deal with someone who may not even want you in their space, so make it your duty to take the mountain to Mohammed instead.
Check in on them constantly. Even if you can’t be physically around all the time, thoughtful texts and constant calls would go a long way.
Also, don’t get tired of supporting or reassuring them that you’re there for them. They may withdraw or shut you out, but be positive and supportive. Understand that they may not reciprocate your feelings, so love for two.
Radiate warmth, safety, and positivity. They’ll eventually come around.
Everyone needs a strong support system, especially people dealing with mental health issues. So, if your friend is depressed, be there for them in every way. Your constant support and encouragement will make them feel heard and loved. It might get hard, but be patient and positive. It’ll all be worth it in the end.
If you need help connecting with a good therapist, don’t hesitate to reach out to us.