Helping depressed friends

Imagine that your roommate has been acting differently lately. Maybe he hasn’t been interested in playing any video games with you for the past couple of weeks, or maybe she hasn’t expressed any desire to go to the dining center with you and your other friends anymore. She may not have even showered for a couple of days, and the idea of leaving her bed seems so daunting that she spends most of her time sitting under the covers zoning out while Netflix buzzes in the background.

Many people recognize these signs of depression, but there are other more subtle symptoms. And when a person suffering  from depression opens up about struggling with these feelings, there are statements you should or should not say, just as with any disorder.

Recently, a few articles on the Huffington Post and Cosmopolitan have appeared, expressing “Things Not To Say To Someone With Depression.” Examples include not telling someone to “Suck it up,” “I know how you feel,” and “There are others out there with it worse than you.” Yes, there are people who have it worse, but what part of that is supposed to make someone feel better? You wouldn’t tell someone with Type 1 diabetes that at least he doesn’t have cancer.

Saying “I know how you feel” is also not very helpful because no person’s experiences are exactly the same. Even if you have suffered from depression or currently struggle with it, there is no way to compare your experiences to someone else’s.

The articles explain in more detail a number of other common sentiments expressed to depressed people. The articles also do a very good job of explaining why certain statements should not be said. However, these articles do not offer many suggestions about what to say. There is no perfect formula of something to say, so perhaps that is why they do not offer many ideas, but even a few suggestions are better than none.

Depending on your relationship with the person, you may feel somewhat uncomfortable talking about this with him or her, especially if he or she has not specifically addressed it by saying “I’m depressed.” If you just have concerns about the potential, it is still important to bring it up, and you should offer to help in any way you can.

Offer to be a listening ear but encourage them to speak with a professional if it seems to be more than you can handle on your own. You are not a trained professional, and while you should be there for your friends, there is only so much you can do. Saying something along the lines of “Everyone goes through tough times; you can get through it. I’ll help you” and “It’s OK to ask for help if you need it” are recommended by

This resource is a link on ISU’s Student Counseling Services website, which can also be a great source of information, tips and instructions on how to make an appointment. The website recommends taking a QPR training program (question, persuade and refer as a way to prevent suicide), Half of Us campaign information and spreading awareness through the Lick the Blues campaign in order to help others, even if no one in your life seemingly needs it right now.

If you need more help than what is available on the website, you can also pick up fliers about depression, anxiety, suicide and eating disorders, among other mental illnesses and struggles of college students at Student Counseling Services in the Student Services Building. Additionally, groups on campus such as To Write Love On Her Arms promote awareness and understanding of mental illness while trying to reduce the stigma of asking for help. The winter blues are real, and so are the options you can offer your friends if they need help. Learn what not to say to someone who is struggling, but focus more on what you can say to show your  support.

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