Noticing signs of depression in someone you care about can be a tricky situation. You might want to say something to them, but at the same time, you don’t want to offend them. You might want to encourage them to seek help, but they may not even want to admit that they are feeling depressed.
So, what can you do? It is important that you do something. Depression is the kind of illness that only gets worse without treatment. This doesn’t mean that you’re responsible for your friend’s healthy, but there are steps you can take to ensure your friend’s well being.
For instance, the first thing you can do is talk to an adult you trust, perhaps an adult that also knows your friend. You may want to go to a school counselor, teacher, or parent. Let them know about your concern.
Second, you might want to gently share your concern with your friend. Communicating your concern kindly and with respect may be the right tone that gets your friend to listen. Admitting to depression can be difficult; there continues to be a heavy stigma with depression and most mental illnesses. At first, your friend may not admit to it. However, he or she may dwell on the conversation you’ve had and perhaps a light will go off inside. Perhaps he or she will begin to make some connections.
At the same time, your friend may not ever respond in agreement. He or she may be too much in denial. Or your friend may not be ready to admit to feeling depressed for many reasons. Not only can stigma prevent someone from doing anything about their depression, but admitting to depression also means being responsible for it. A person might ask – what does it mean to have depression? What do I need to do about it? What’s going to happen if my family and other friends know? There are consequences to admitting to a mental illness that your friend may not be ready for.
No matter how your friend responds the fact that you’ve expressed your concern is the most important. Additionally, if you’ve also talked to a trusted adult, then he or she might be able to take further action. If you’re afraid of what your friend may think if he or she finds out you’ve spoken to an adult, you might ask the adult to hold what you shared confidential.
Meanwhile, if you’re interested, you may want to get to know the illness yourself. Depression is a common mental illness among teens, but it’s different than feeling sad. For many teens, there will be periods of sadness during adolescence. Teenagers may experience discouragement, feelings of not fitting in, uncertainty about the future, an inability to meet the demands of parents and teachers, and this may result in a sullen mood. However, feeling sullen and feeling depressed are two different experiences.
Depression has clear physical symptoms such as irritability, guilt, loss of interest in activities, social withdrawal, suicidal thoughts, poor concentration, poor memory, indecision, slow thinking, loss of motivation, sleep disturbance, appetite disturbance, fatigue, and headaches.
The good thing is that it’s not your responsibility to try to tell the difference between sadness and depression. As long as you’ve shared your concern, you’ve done your friend a huge service.
Also, sometimes, not feeling good on the inside can lead to finding ways to feel better – fast! Because of this some teens might resort to drugs, risky behavior, excessive sexual activity, drinking and more. However, the most dangerous result of untreated depression is suicide. And this most certainly requires the attention of a mental health professional.
If you believe your friend is experiencing depression, seek support today.