When your friend isn’t acting like herself and seems depressed, you will probably feel inclined to help, but may not know how. Here are some do’s and don’ts.
Do: Acknowledge the problem. You might notice changes in your friend’s behavior. Maybe she lacks motivation or spends a lot of time alone. Tell her you’ve noticed these differences and ask what you can do to help.
Don’t: Ignore the problem. It might be easier to pretend it isn’t happening—but that won’t help her. It will make her feel as if you don’t value or aren’t aware of her feelings.
Do: Try to find out why she’s feeling so depressed. Ask questions to find out what is the cause, if she is able to identify it. Even if you can’t “fix it,” be sure she knows you are there for her.
Don’t: Take it lightly. People have different triggers. What has little effect on you might be traumatic for her. Don’t make jokes or be dismissive. If you make light of the situation, she won’t want to open up to you.
Do: Listen to what she has to say. We all need people to listen to us. Give her time to express what is on her mind. It’s okay if the conversation is one-sided. You don’t have to give input—in fact, it’s better if you don’t.
Don’t: Tell her she has it better than others. You might think acknowledging that it could be worse will help her feel grateful for what she has, but it won’t. Chances are, she already knows this and is still unhappy.
Do: Ask for help. Encourage your friend to make an appointment with your campus counselor. If she refuses help, but is in serious danger of harming herself, do not hesitate to call your school’s emergency hotline. Let her family know what is happening as well.
Don’t: Try to be her therapist. You are not qualified to solve her problems. Help her find someone who is.
Do: Be patient. It can be frustrating if she is rejecting your help, but try to understand.
Don’t: Be too pushy. Check in on her frequently–show her you care, but don’t try to force her to talk about her experiences. She will likely tell you what’s on her mind when she’s ready.
Do: Pitch in where you can. Offer to help her with her schoolwork or internship applications if she seems to be falling behind.
Don’t: Deplete Yourself. Dealing with her depression can take its toll on you—make sure you have enough time for yourself and get other people who care for her involved so you can rotate checking in on her.
Written by Andreia Bulhao