How to Help a Friend Living with Depression

The simple but powerful ways to walk with someone through their misery and mystery.

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Posted in , Feb 9, 2021

Living with depression

Right now, I’m trying to help a friend who is batting depression and the misery that comes from this illness. I don’t know exactly what to do from a medical or practical perspective, but our love and friendship compels me to find a way to be present for him, even though he lives far away.

When a friend is depressed, we can’t avoid or deny that it’s happening even though we may be afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing. Or maybe we’re afraid of our own vulnerability and painful memories.

The first time I called him, we spoke extensively. He shared how severe his depression was, not being able to manage his business of many years. Had it been a typically busy time, he said, he would have lost it. 

Some days he is afraid to drive his car to do simple errands. The worst is getting up in the morning to face another day. But in the midst of his darkness, he is taking steps to get help. He has a psychiatrist for medical care and is talking to a counselor. He is taking anti-depressants to address the chemical imbalance.

I don’t know what it is to walk in his shoes. But I do know how to be present and available. In our conversations over the weeks, I know that one thing that works for him is prayer. He talks to God about this pain, darkness and fears. He also likes to make lists of the good things in his life. These are two things he does for himself every day. 

At the end of our talks on the phone, I ask if we can pray together. The first time we did that, I could hear him crying. In my struggle to help my friend face a dark time, I don’t want to make things worse by trying to “fix” him or judge him or remind him of better days. I just want to be there with him and stand still, respectfully, at the edge of his mystery and misery in a moment filled with love and hope.

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