When my friend told me about her previous struggle with depression, it was like a punch to the gut. I feel like the first thought is always, "Why didn't you tell me? I could've helped somehow."
But the reality that there's very little I could have done is almost as gut-wrenching as the thought of a close friend having this terrible struggle within herself. This is especially hard to recognize for the ones that are labeled as "the strong friend." They might seem to have it all together, but if you watch closely, there could be a serious struggle that they don't feel like they can talk to anyone about.
Despite being a minority group, black people are said to be 10 percent more likely than their white counterparts to suffer from depression. In tandem with that stat, black people are also far less likely to seek treatment for their mental health issues.
Thankfully, depression and mental health is no longer this taboo conversation that we have to try to ignore. With recent celebrities shocking the world with ending their lives and even the amazingly talented Michelle Williams bravely opening up about her struggle and her decision to seek help, now is the perfect time to address it and confront it head-on for those close to us. It's more than having discussions and "raising awareness," but is also about figuring out ways we can truly help and try to make a difference for ourselves and those around us.
If you believe, or are wondering, if one of your close friends, or even yourself, is struggling with depression, take a look at some of the most common warning signs below.
Withdrawing From Being Social
I think we can all agree that adulting is nothing to mess with. And there are countless memes that prove why going out for a fun girl's night isn't what it used to be. (i.e. "I'm sorry I couldn't make but I didn't want to come.") But laughter aside, this could be an indication that your friend is secretly dealing with depression. She might have been the life of the party at one point, but now wants to stay inside with no hope of resurfacing for interactions with friends.
If she seems extra down and you feel like there's very little you can do to help her to leave the house after weeks and months of trying, this is something you can't overlook. A good idea might be to have a girl's night at her place if she doesn't want to go out. Use that as an excuse to seriously check on her and ask her how she's doing.
Open up about your concerns that she's not who she used to be.
You might be surprised at how that effort could make her feel comfortable enough to tell you what's truly going on with her.
She Constantly Criticizes Herself
This is seriously the worst. Hearing a friend who you perceive as amazing constantly belittle herself is one of the worst feelings ever. But imagine how bad she must feel if she's saying these things out loud; not to mention what could be going through her head that doesn't make it into conversation.
While you might not feel comfortable addressing depression upfront, one thing you could do in moments like this is to stop your friend from talking bad about herself, and others around her. When she insults herself, tell her it's not true. And if it is true, give her loving words and tell her something that IS good about her anyway. Help her look in the mirror and see that she has something to offer that no one else can. Let her know that you go through your own issues and even think negative things about yourself at certain times. During these moments, one of the best things you can offer is reassurance. She might not know it, but it could be exactly what she's looking for.
Difficulty Eating And Sleeping
While some symptoms of depression are more hidden than others, not sleeping through the night and a loss of appetite are some of the most open ones. If you notice your friend hardly ever wants to eat, or on the other hand, eats emotionally all the time, there could be something she's going through internally. If she's also having trouble getting a full night sleep, or, on the flip side, wants to do nothing but sleep, this is also a possible indication of depression.
This one is a little bit more difficult to help with, especially if she lives by herself. You could go as far as bringing her lunch to work to make sure she eats. This would be a good time to have the discussion with her about her possible battle. It's also helpful to ask her in the morning how she slept the night before. If she consistently says she hardly got any sleep, ask her why she thinks that is. It could create dialogue if she doesn't realize she's struggling with depression.
Their Cryptic Conversations
You might be able to discover if your friend is depressed by something that's seemingly as simple as her words. If she hints toward the world being a better place without her, tries to even joke about suicide, says that no one needs her, you seriously have to listen and say/do something. At some point, it can get really discouraging as you realize your encouragement has a ceiling.
Trying to help a friend through depression is scary and we're not professionals.
As much as we want to save the day, there's only so much we can do. Let your friend know that either way, therapy is nothing she has to be ashamed of and encourage her as much as you can to get the help she needs while reassuring her that you're still by her side.
If you or someone you know is currently dealing with depression, check out this list of helpful resources over at Everyday Health.