• Resolving Problems

Worrying about a depressed friend

Published: June 15, 2011 | Last Updated: September 8, 2014 By | 3 Replies Continue Reading
How do you deal with a seriously depressed friend who says he wants to die?


Dear Irene,

I have a very best friend who I’ve known for six years since our freshman year of high school. Lately he’s been feeling really down and depressed. He actually tells me everything about it. He tells me how he sees this one doctor to help him, and how he sometimes takes medication for his treatment. He stopped going to treatment and he told me he might go into rehab for help.

I’m really worried about him and want him to get better. He tells me how he’s not happy with himself and that he wants to die. I worry about him constantly. A few weeks ago, he decided that he shouldn’t go into an almost year-long rehab program. I told him to go but he didn’t listen.

I think he’s going to shut everyone out of his life and not talk to anyone. That really worries me. What should I do? Should I leave him alone until he wants to talk to me? I worry about him everyday because he’s my best friend, and I have so much love for him. What should I do as a supportive friend?

Signed, Carla


Dear Carla,

It sounds like your friend is severely depressed. And when someone repeatedly talks about wanting to die, the risk of suicide is real. I’m sure that being with someone so depressed and constantly worrying about his well-being has to be a terrible burden for you, too, one that you are not equipped to handle on your own.

Here are some suggestions for you:

  • Do you know any of his family members or other close friends? It would be very helpful to speak to someone else in confidence so that the burden of helping your friend isn’t yours alone.
  • Do whatever you can to encourage your friend to see his doctor to evaluate his condition as soon as possible. Your friend may not have been on the right medication or may have stopped taking it prematurely. Perhaps, you can offer to help set up an appointment for him if he doesn’t have the energy to do it on his own.
  • Check in with him periodically to chat or to offer companionship so he doesn’t feel so alone. It’s more important to listen rather than to talk. Also, try to reassure him that depression is a treatable illness that his feelings will pass if he gets help.
  • If he speaks about dying again, don’t beat around the bush. Strongly urge him to contact a suicide hotline, his doctor, or get other professional advice in your community right away—or do it yourself. While HIPAA privacy regulations do not allow health professionals to share confidential information about a patient, they in no way prevent them from listening.
  • If you feel that your friend is in imminent danger to himself or others, you may have no alternative but to contact the police.

Keep in mind that the role of a friend, even a very caring one, is somewhat limited. You can encourage but you can’t make someone seek help. Be sure to take care of yourself, too.

Hope this helps a little.

My best,

Here are several other prior posts on The Friendship Blog on depression and friendship that might be worthwhile reading:

*Nothing on this blog is intended as medical advice, just the type of advice one friend would give to another. If you are concerned about your health or that of someone you know, consult a physician.

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Category: Depressed friends

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  1. When a friend threatens suicide - The Friendship Blog : The Friendship Blog | September 23, 2014
  1. Anonymous says:

    I work at a Clubhouse intended to serve members as
    an employment rehab. Volunteering here after having
    spent, the last time, four months in the mental institution has helped me gain some needed confidence and added a feeling of self-worth. I got
    depressed. I get angry. I am working on it. ‘Nuff sed

  2. I really hope your friend gets the treatment he needs and gets better soon.

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