You have a friend who is depressed? Here’s what to do

A friend posted this on Facebook:

My suggestion for how to honor Robin William’s passing: Skip watching his movie clips and reach out to a friend or family member who may be in a bad place/suffering from depression.

As someone who has had a lot of friends with depression, here are some tips I’ve come up with:

  1. Don’t confront someone about their depression unless it’s obvious or they are in imminent danger of hurting themselves.
  2. Don’t tell them “things will get better,” “just buck up,” etc. These are just platitudes. They imply that it’s the person’s fault.
  3. Pick up the damn phone. Calling will tell you a lot more than exchanging SMSes or Facebook wall posts. This is probably a good idea regardless, just to keep up with friends. I’d rather have three close friends call me on my birthday than 150 Facebook wall posts.
  4. Make time for them. Depression sometimes has to do with loneliness. Ask them for drinks, go see a movie, a hike. Whatever. This is also a good opportunity to get a better feel of where they’re at.
  5. Don’t make empty promises. If you say you want to help, actually mean it. Offering help when you don’t actually mean it will make the person more depressed. It sound like just being a good human, but too many people want the credit for “being good” without actually following through.
  6. Don’t lawyer conversations.
  7. Recognize when you’re out of your depth. Depression is a disease. It’s likely going to be too big a burden on you to try to help your friend on an ongoing basis. Help them find the appropriate resources.

Over on LinkedIn, I wrote a post on what Google, Twitter and Facebook should do to help address depression and suicide.

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About Rakesh Agrawal

Rakesh Agrawal is CEO of redesign | mobile. Previously, he launched local and mobile products for Microsoft and AOL. His personal blog is at http://blog.agrawals.org and tweets at @rakeshlobster.
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