According to the World Health Organization, there are more than 300 million individuals around the world who suffer from depression. In the United States, anxiety disorders are the most common mental condition, which affects 40 million adults. Although these conditions can be treated, there are only a few who get treatment while many refuse to get help.
Surely, you know someone who is going through tough times but refuse to seek treatment as well. If you want to help, here’s what you can do:
You’re only one call or text away
Charlie Puth’s voice might be echoing in your head right now, but for someone who is going through a lot, one call or text means something. Show your support by sending a text message like “You are not alone” or “I’m here for you,” to that friend – even if you won’t get a response.
This can be helpful for someone who’s been through a lot because she/he knows that there is someone out there, checking and willing to extend a helping hand.
Don’t rush them through their pain
Pain will always be part of life. Many people go through it and survived, but this doesn’t mean your friend can do the same. Believe it or not, telling them stories about how your cousin’s neighbor survived depression would result to hiding the pain instead of being honest about it.
Time heals all wounds. Let your friend move through and experience pain because this is part of the process. Resist the urge to “fix” things and let them be, which leads you to the next tip.
Avoid giving unsolicited advice
Admit it. Every time a friend confides to you, you have the tendency to blurt out something that you think will help address the problem. Apparently, this is not helping. In fact, it makes your friend feel that she is not even heard.
If you really want to support a friend through tough times, then avoid giving advice, especially if they are not asking for help. This includes magic formula to make the problem go away or even cliché that aims to make someone feel better. Surely, you mean well, but the best that you can do is to be there for your friend.
Do not talk about yourself
You’ve been through a similar situation. Unlike your friend, you were able to rise and got back on your feet. That’s good.
Apparently, your friend doesn’t have to hear it. Being unintentionally patronizing could only make your friend feel worse about his/her self, which is not helpful. Only say something about your personal experience when asked.
Also, avoid complaining about how your friend’s tough time is making you feel as well. If you are not comfortable, then be honest about it instead of going there and letting her vent and with you complaining in the end. The next time you need help, your friend might do the same and you don’t want that feeling.
Try a new activity with a friend
Alcohol might be your go-to activity, but if your friend is going through something, then this activity might lead to alcohol abuse because it masks the pain she/he is feeling.
What you can do is to introduce a new activity; either something you haven’t done before or an activity that enhances your friend’s hobby or passion. Classes like baking, photography, or even as simple as exercise enables connection with both the present and sensory experiences. As a result, your friend becomes more mindful of the surroundings and thinking eventually fades, thereby helping your friend feel better.
One word: listen
This is the most important thing you can do as a friend.
It’s natural for you to offer advice to help your friend get through tough times. You can even promise that you’ll always be there by her side no matter what happens. More than anything, what your friend really needs is someone to listen and not someone who will “fix” her or the situation she is in. She needs to know that someone can lend a listening ear without being judged in return. Your friend needs assurance that there is someone she can turn to without fear.
Listen. That’s what your friend needs.
Remember the person
More than anything else, here’s what you need to remember: every person is different when it comes to dealing with failures and setbacks in life. These tips will definitely show how much you support your friend during tough times, but this is not a black and white guide.
What you can do is to adjust according to your friend’s personality. If she likes getting hugs, go ahead and give her a tight one. If she’s the type who prefers being surrounded by people while nursing a failure, then make sure you make time for her. If she prefers space, then give it to her and do not assert anything. Know who they are and then act.
To sum this up, remember this tip: say a little less but love a little more. Keep these tips in mind when you’re trying to help a friend. They are in a vulnerable place and you must be careful about your actions and words. Be cautious and do whatever your friend needs you to do – not what you think is best.