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Supporting friends living with depression

Published: March 19, 2017 | By | 5 Replies Continue Reading
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A friend asks how to respond to her friends living with depression who seem on-again, off-again.



I’d like some advice on the best way to support a couple of great friends who are living with depression. In general, the friendships are fun and satisfying with healthy give and take. They both take care of themselves and receive professional help.

My question regards the best way to be supportive when one of them is having a depressive episode. I’ve noticed with both friends that they’ll ask for attention (one texts me, the other posts on Facebook to everyone asking for support and love.) I’ll call or message them and ask if I can stop by with coffee, take them out for lunch, or pick up some grocery items for them. Sometimes they will make plans with me then blow it off at the last minute, or just tell me they are too upset to see me.

I have no problem with giving someone space when they feel crappy and just can’t, but I’m just confused by what I should do when someone reaches out and then pushes me away almost in the same breath. Sometimes it seems like they’re shocked that I’m actually trying to see them. They say something like “I’m not doing well so obviously I don’t want to have coffee with you.” Actually, it isn’t obvious to me at all because I was just asked for attention.

Because this is happening with multiple people who are having similar problems, I’m wondering what could be better about my approach. I just don’t understand the “I need you don’t come near me” stuff but assume it’s part of depression. Is anyone out there currently managing on-and-off depression, and if so, what is the ideal response a friend could give you when you let them know you’re having a rough time with it?

Signed, Marlene


Hi Marlene,

Your friends are lucky to have an understanding friend like you on their side. It sounds like both friends retreat socially when they’re depressed, which is typical for many people living with depression. Just because they turn you down or don’t show up doesn’t mean they don’t appreciate your offer of support.

Yes, depression can have its ups and downs. When depressed people do reach out, them may simply want someone to listen. Perhaps, you could ask these friends how you can best be supportive to them. Do they want talk about their feelings? Do they want to get-together and do something distracting? Do they need help with errands?

Explain that you’re happy to get together but don’t want to place undue pressure on them if they aren’t feeling up to it. Having two depressed friends may put some strain on you. Not only can it be a downer but you can’t always rely upon them for companionship. If this is the case, you may want to add another non-depressed friend to your circle.

Hope this helps.

Best Irene

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Category: Depressed friends, KEEPING FRIENDS

Comments (5)

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  1. Melissa says:

    I’m the depressed friend in this story. Not literally the same person but I’m a depressed person. Honestly, i wouldnt know what to do with me if I were you. I know how I can be and I get on my own nerves. I want so badly to be invited places but at the same time, I don’t want to leave my house. I get angry over stupid things and manipulate situations to get more attention when I think I need it. Granted, my husband is always out in his shop and random people are coming over all the time for him. He has a construction company. But I do get so angry missing him and everyone else and I try to just disappear

  2. meorge says:

    Your friends who are depressed may just want to get a text or email so they don’t feel forgotten. They may not want to go out or have a visit. I had a horrible week this past week and spent the whole weekend with the blinds drawn, at home with my best friend kitty cat. No people, no talking, no outside. For me, that was wonderful. But it would have been nice to get a text from a friend just to know someone was thinking of me.

  3. lottie says:

    It is a very interesting subject.Depression seems to be getting worse in this modern world. People are more and more attached to their mobiles and similar.Conversation almost looks like it is old fashioned and dated. How many families text one another when in the same house. To me it is a sad state of affairs.We all need others to actually chat with,but no one has time. Too busy doing there own thing.

    So Marlene indeed you are a good friend to be treasured. When the DFs cancel on you she/he probably feeling so bad they can’t even be bothered to get dressed. Maybe ask next time it happens if they would like you to call round and just sit together,rather than going out.Take a cake or sandwich and make the coffee. It might be a great tonic instead of them making a major effort of getting dressed/washed. Sometimes rather than medication a helping hand of pure friendship is all that is needed.YOURS.

    Funnily, only last night I read a book by EM Forster written near a 100yrs ago.” The Machine Stops”. It made riveting reading for me. Worth getting a couple of copies not much on Amazon.

    Look after yourself first Marlene,treat yourself.

    To make you smile yesterday I was crossing the road in our small town. A man I knew held out his arms to greet me. He asked me to join him for a coffee,I did. He wanted to tell me about having his mobile stolen the day before. All private details bank/building society +++ all on the mobile. He discussed everything, all private. It was time to leave the tearoom,we had hot chocolate with all the trimmings. He turned to me,and said…. by the way what is your name!!!! I paid the bill and howled laughing.He lives for his mobile,and button pressing.

    Take care all. Lottie

  4. Sandra says:

    I agree with Irene — you sound like a caring and understanding friend. You’re a sensitive person who thinks about the needs of others, and you’re there to help your friends when they are going through rough times. But one sentence in your email jumped out at me:

    “Because this is happening with multiple people who are having similar problems, I’m wondering what could be better about my approach.”

    When reading that sentence, it made me wonder if you have a lot of depressed friends in your life. I wonder if you are most comfortable in a “caregiver” role in your relationships? That’s why I’m hoping that you have other friends who are not depressed, or are able to maintain their relationships even when they are down. It certainly would help if you have other friends whose needs are not as complicated and changeable as what you’re describing here. Maybe you already do, and you can spend more time with those people.

    In the past, I had a few friends who required the skill of a therapist to get along with them. After a while I had to ask myself why I was drawn to friends who demanded more help than I was able to offer.

  5. Amy F says:

    Your friends are so lucky to have someone as supportive and insightful as you in their corner. Their depression doesn’t mean you don’t deserve to be treated with respect or that you should accept being treated unkindly. Asking a question like, “How can I best support you?” might be a good first step. You can be understanding and give them a wider berth without being accepting everything. Hopefully both of these friends are in treatment and if necessary, on medication. If they aren’t things won’t improve for them because depression is a medical illness that needs treatment. You need to take care of yourself and your emotional needs. Depression isn’t a free pass to treat you poorly. Lots of depressed people still manage to treat others with kindness and respect. Hopefully you have other friends who don’t suffer from depression. If not, you might ask yourself if there’s something in your way of relating to people that attracts you to people with mental illnesses. Are you a caretaker? You deserve to have equal friendships.

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