Depression has hit me on and off since I was 13. I know the feeling so well — it’s like a somber ghost that comes back to haunt you when you least expect it. I’m here to ask for advice because I believe a friend of mine at work is depressed. I notice the signs: they have been having trouble sleeping (some nights no sleep at all), they have been skipping their martial arts class, they aren’t socially engaging at work, and they have been anxious and distant more recently. I want to be respective of my friend’s space and privacy, but I also want them to know that I am just a text or call away. How do I let my friend know that they can come to me and that I’ll listen when they need it?
-Concerned in Phoenix
I will admit, I struggled with your question. Having never suffered from depression myself, I have no frame of reference for your situation. Being a non-sufferer, I also feel as though I have sat across a table with someone battling depression and I had no idea. So, I reached out to a few people in my social circle to ask them how they would want someone to approach them about such a sensitive topic. The responses were overwhelming positive. Here is some of the advice they had to share.
Share Your Story
There is a way to let someone know you can identify with what they are going through without addressing it directly. When the time feels right, tell them about your experience with depression and how it made you feel. By doing this you are showing yourself to be an ally. They will make the connection on their own. Additionally, sharing your story openly may help them realize that their battle isn’t something to be ashamed of. They are more likely to be willing to share once they know they are not alone.
Change Your Expectations
If you are asking this person to go out and do things they normally enjoy and they decline, offer to something more low key. Depression and mood-altering substances don’t mix well, so steer clear of happy hour. Offer to watch a movie at their place or do something to pamper yourselves. A relaxing activity where talking isn’t required might put them at ease for a while. Be careful not to put too much pressure on them. Just tell them if they change their mind you look forward to their company at some point in the future.
When in Doubt, Be Blunt
If you have tried every thing you can think of and you feel like they aren’t catching your drift, confront them directly. If it’s their first encounter with depression, they may not recognize it themselves. Privately, tell them what you have observed and why it concerns you. They may deny it, but remember you aren’t there to diagnose them. Just let them know that if they ever need to talk or if they just want someone to come over and not talk, then you are there for them. Remind them that they mean something to you.
CIP, you have a certain responsibility to your fellow man when you recognize struggle. I commend you for feeling compelled to help someone in need. I sincerely hope that if you are ever in need that you will reach out to someone for help yourself.
You may regret not speaking up, but I can’t think of a single situation where you would regret saying something. I hope this person accepts your kindness. If they don’t, you tried. And that’s all we can really do.
June was born and raised in the south where “bless your heart” is an insult. Self professed serial dater and an expert in all matters of the heart. June also enjoys volunteering, dancing and sewing.