When we begin to notice that one of our loved ones is suffering from depression, we usually have a feeling of helplessness. We hope that there’s something we could say to make all their pain go away. Although our intentions are good, this approach tends to complicate things even further. The truth is that the best help is not saying anything at all, but to be an active listener.
As stated in the description of depression, the key to our emotional well-being is to keep our emotional cycle running. We can keep our emotional flow intact by being aware of our feelings and to express them regularly and effectively. A friend with depression is not someone who needs to be “fixed” with the correct words of encouragement or wisdom. A friend with depression needs someone who can help them share their deepest feelings in a safe environment. Basically, they need someone to listen to them. Listen without judgment. This sounds easier than it is because we’re very close to our friends. Our friends need to be able to say anything without consequences in their lives. This is the edge counselors have because their position as professionals allows them to be more objective.
Once you are able to provide this safe place for expression, there are a few things you’ll need to be prepared for:
You must be comfortable in your nonjudgmental stance because sometimes they may say something that could be hurtful to you. You must be prepared to withhold your reaction to avoid threatening their feeling of security.
You must be patient as the process takes time. As stated before, it’s not a matter of fixing them; it’s a matter of allowing them to return to their emotional cycle by expressing their unreleased emotions. Letting all the emotions out is part of the cycle. Initially your friend will look visibly sadder. However, being able to express their feelings of sadness is the only way to complete their emotional cycle and through time they should start enjoying life again. If the depression persists after multiple conversations in that safe and comfortable space, it’s likely that your friend still has some suppressed issues to sort through. In this case, you should advise them to seek a higher level of support.
Remember, you cannot fix your loved ones, but you can listen, and when appropriate, challenge maladaptive behaviors or conditioning beliefs. The challenge is that has to be done with trust and care. If you are not confident in your ability to carry it out as suggested, please recommend that your friend seek professional help.