In Aspen Strong

How Can I Help A Depressed Friend?

You Can Do a Lot for a Depressed Friend

Chances are you know someone struggling with depression – it’s among the most common behavioral health problems facing Americans today. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, more than 7% of U.S. adults – that’s more than 17 million people – experienced depression in the past year. And while you may be familiar with the some of the symptoms of depression, how confident are you in supporting a friend, colleague, or family member who’s struggling?

Signs of Depression

To start, make sure you’re familiar with depression symptoms. The Mayo Clinic lists the following as common symptoms individuals may experience during a bout of depression:

  • Feelings of sadness, tearfulness, emptiness, or hopelessness
  • Angry outbursts, irritability, or frustration – even over small matters
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in most or all normal activities, such as sex, hobbies, or sports
  • Sleep disturbances, including insomnia or sleeping too much
  • Tiredness and lack of energy, so even small tasks take extra effort
  • Reduced appetite and weight loss or increased cravings for food and weight gain
  • Anxiety, agitation, or restlessness
  • Slowed thinking, speaking, or body movements
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixating on past failures or self-blame
  • Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions, and remembering things
  • Frequent or recurrent thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts, or suicide
  • Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches

Note that many signs of depression are often opposite ends of a spectrum, where an individual’s typical behavior marks the center. For example, sleeping far more than usual is a symptom as is sleeping far less, or having no appetite at all is a symptom as well as eating much more than usual. Do not assume that because someone is experiencing the opposite of one expected symptom, that they’re not displaying signs of depression at all.

How to Help

Now that you’re more aware of what to look for, how can you support someone who may be suffering from depression? Mental Health First Aid USA has developed a simple five-step plan that can give anyone a framework for how to be there for those in your life struggling with depression: ALGEE.

  • A – Assess for risk of suicide or harm.
    • Be alert for signs of suicidal thoughts and actions. If you feel someone’s life is in imminent danger, always seek emergency help right away.
  • L – Listen nonjudgmentally.
  • G – Give assurance and information.
    • Be sure to acknowledge how someone who is struggling with depression is feeling and make your concern for them felt. Reassure them that depression is a diagnosable – and more importantly, treatable – condition.
  • E – Encourage appropriate professional help.
  • E – Encourage self-help and other support strategies.

Don’t shy away from reaching out to someone who may be struggling with depression. Showing that you care can only help, and you never know how much they may be in need of a friend.

If for any reason you are unsure, uncomfortable, or unable to take action, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting ACT to 741741.

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