All of us have had friends in our lives who are depressed. Sometimes they admit it, but too often they try to hide their depression behind a masked smile.
Those who have never struggled with depression find it easy to flippantly tell them to think positive thoughts. They have never experienced the dark hole, a place where light wouldn't dare to penetrate.
There are endless tears cried in private, sleepless nights, and the call to give up.
Here are five ways to help a friend experiencing depression:
1. Acknowledge their depression.
Don't try to ignore the obvious, or pretend it's something else. Urge them to see a professional to get help. Gently ask if they would like you to make an appointment for them.
2. Don't try to "figure it out."
Yes, their childhood might have been dysfunctional. Yes, they may live with a demanding husband. Yes, they may have three kids under the age of four. Any of these could contribute to their depression, but often it can be a hormonal imbalance or any number of physical or emotional traumas.
3. Reach out to them.
Often depression comes with self worth issues. They think they aren't worthy to be considered. Use, "I'm so happy you're my friend." "Let's go get a coffee." "I have some free time. Can I come over and work on your laundry?"
4. Give hugs freely.
Studies show that a sincere hug that lasts longer than 20 seconds can release feel-good chemicals in the brain and elevate the mood of the giver and receiver.
5. Brighten their environment.
Move a cozy chair by a window. Drape a soft throw over the arm of the chair. Place a vase of fresh flowers and a lightly-scented candle on a stand nearby. Fill a basket with a journal and colored pens, light reading material, and a Bible.
There will be days when you feel like you aren't helping, and others when you feel like your friend is regressing. Keep loving, keep praying, and keep making contact. Remember, "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18).