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Tips for coping with depression - what can friends do?

(6 Posts)
iismum Wed 22-May-13 22:47:58

I have a dear friend who's been coping with depression, sometimes severe, for many years. She doesn't have a partner or children and her family are not nearby (and are complicated) but she has several close friends who she can depend on. However, she is often reluctant to call us because she feels bad to ask so much of us, and feels she takes more from her relationships than she puts back in (we don't feel that way).

She has been through a bad patch recently and really wants to come up with new coping strategies, especially focussing on not calling people only at crisis point but trying to deal with things before it gets to that point. She's having a brain-storming session in a few days with a few of her close friends, and I want to be able to contribute as much as possible.

If anyone has any suggestions about coping strategies I could suggest, especially about things friends can do, but in a way that doesn't make her feel like she's being too demanding, I'd be very grateful. At the moment, my support generally consists of spending time with her when she's down, which I know helps, but is maybe not sufficient.

mikkii Wed 22-May-13 22:59:25

I also have a friend who suffers from depression.

She has really found counselling helpful. Her GP referred her for a series of sessions.

My friend also tends to retreat as the depression comes over her, so if you haven't heard from her, give her a call, invite her over. If she feels you do too much, invite her for lunch, but she may cry off (my friend does this) if so, go to her, it is much harder to put off someone in person.

Reassure her that she isn't a drain. My friend is very generous especially with her time, when she is well, because she says I do so much for her, but normally this is just gentle calls for a chat, a gentle word to check how things are, reassurance that she is not going mad, other people have he same issues as she is having.

I hope you and your friends help her to find some strategies as it is a miserable existence when you are inside it.

anchovies Wed 22-May-13 23:11:27

The thing that seems to help me the most is spontaneity. People just turning up and making me get dressed and come out for a walk or bringing a nice lunch. It's only when things like that happen that I really feel like im not making them help me! When I was absolutely at my worst my sister took me to Alton towers and that one day was probably one if the best days I've ever had. She understands when I am thinking or can't think of what to say and makes up for it with just general happiness and lightheartedness.

It's also good to know you can say no or them to be fine with cancelling things at the last minute.

Another idea is using moodscope and her setting you up as a buddy so it automatically emails you. Somehow this always felt easier than bringing myself to tell people I was feeling really bad.

What a lovely friend you are smile

iismum Thu 23-May-13 05:33:10

Thanks a lot for the advice. I think I'm not bring proactive enough, and too often waiting for her to call me. With work and two small kids I often don't get round to contacting any of my friends as much as I would like, but I think I need to make more effort with her.

Anchovies, could you tell me more about the moodscope?

somanymiles Thu 23-May-13 05:45:25

Exercise is hugely helpful and has been shown in some studies to be more helpful than anti-depressants.

My sister suffers with depression. We sometimes run or hike together and that gives her the motivation to get up and out. Sometimes, if she's having a bad patch, I've literally had to shout at her to make her get out of bed and come running, but she feels a lot better afterwards.

Why not make a plan so that you all have a regular walk, gym session or something else active arranged? It will be harder for your friend not to exercise if you have a prior arrangement and it could help her moods.

limitlessyou1 Fri 24-May-13 09:56:41

HI iismum, your friend is very fortunate to have someone who cares so much about her on her side, that in itself is a great help. Somanymiles is right exercise is a great way to naturally raise the serotonin levels that will be depleted in your friend so a regular walk or something of that kind would be great for her. As you will know, depression is an illness that relies very much on a persons introspection, therefore getting people connected to the wider community and providing them with a sense of purpose can be an excellent way to remove the self focus and to start her looking at the bigger picture. If you are able to get out with your friend perhaps you can try to find out if there has been anything in the past that she has been interested in that she could commit to getting involved with now. Even if she was able to only commit to four hours a week with a local charity, or helping a less physically able person with their garden for example, this outer focus can have a profound effect on the negative outlook. Finally, teaching your friend a very easy breathing technique may also be helpful as practice works like meditation. The action of focussing on the breath diverts the mind from the negative thoughts, but also has a calming effect on the body, which if she isn't sleeping well can also be very helpful. The technique is called 7/11 breathing all your friend has to do is inhale to the count of 7 and exhale to the count of 11 starting with 5 minute bursts of practice and building up. I hope this is helpful to you and your friend and I wish you both the very best of luck.

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