What is the best way to help someone who is feeling low, struggling emotionally or perhaps even clinically depressed?
I discovered an excellent article in the Wall Street Journal written by columnist Elizabeth Bernstein. Here is summary of the key points of her article, which was titled, “To Be a Friend in a Time of Need, Talk Less, Listen More.”
- Start by asking, “How are you today?”
- Don’t tell the person what you think is wrong. Don’t analyze. Don’t minimize his pain by saying things like: “Stop feeling sorry for yourself,” “There are people worse off,” “You need a hobby,” or “Snap out of it.”
- Listen to what he has to say. “A depressed person wants most of all to be heard, respected and gently loved,” Dr. Rottenberg says. “And they want to be reassured that the friend isn’t going to leave.”
- Don’t wait for your depressed friend to reach out to you. They probably cannot and will not. Invite him to meals or other activities even if he doesn’t want to talk. Send texts or leave a message with no response required.
- Simple, clear messages work best. Dr. Rottenberg suggests to say, “I’m sorry that you’re in so much pain. I may not have all the answers, but I want you to know that I am here for you as long as it takes.”