It is very hard for those who have never suffered a depressive episode to truly understand how debilitating this state of mind can make the sufferer feel. From the outset it can seem as though the sufferers life is so perfect. You may even think ‘how can this person possibly be depressed with how successful, attractive, social and caring he/she is?’
However, depressive thinking is not rational. In this state it is easy to disqualify any positives and to focus on the issues that are creating the depressive episodes. No matter how much others highlight the positives, the depressed person will find it difficult to disengage from the negatives.
The main core feelings underlying depression:
Therefore, these are the areas that require focus when you are trying to support someone who is feeling depressed.
To assist with feelings of hopelessness, the individual needs to feel as though there is a manner in which he/she can take control. For instance, if a friend was feeling depressed about being single and having difficulty finding and sustaining a partner, the best support you could give would be to help her to regain self confidence and accompany her to places she is most likely to meet someone she is compatible with (such as joining a sporting club together, going out dancing together, hosting a dinner party with a potential single partner invited, or attending a social function together).
Giving your friend a feeling of control will help her/him to take steps to shift out of depression and regain hope in the future.
To assist feelings of helplessness the individual needs to feel as though she/he has sufficient resources and support networks available to get through the issues at hand. As a friend you can personally be there to provide support. However, in times of depression it is really critical to advise a depressed friend to seek professional help from a qualified therapist or life coach.
Where therapists differs from a friend is in their perspective (enabling unemotional support) and in the techniques used to move past depression into happiness and health. Your support as a friend will of course remain very important in times of depression, so one should not substitute the other.
In order to assist an individual to increase worthless feelings, it’s important to increase internal validation. Reminding the person of past and current success is a good start. What is especially required is current evidence of being valued. Encouraging the person to help others and thus to see first hand appreciation for this assistance is a great way to see evidence of self worth.
The key here is tapping into the issues causing the depression. So if a person feels unattractive, taking her out for a beauty treatment or supporting her to get back into shape will help. If a person is feeling unloved, showing him those that love and support him will help. If a person is feeling like a failure, engaging her in activities you know she will do well in will also help.
In addition to these supportive techniques above, it is very important to encourage healthy eating and increasing physical activity. Thee two behaviours have a huge impact on moods. Being a good friend could be as simple as supporting your friends to get healthy.
Always remember that there is tremendous power in friendship support. Your ability to help a person in need is one of the most valuable and rewarding aspects of being a human being.