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R U OK: How to support a friend in need

Friendships are so important for all of us. These are the people with whom we share memories, make mistakes and grow alongside. Being able to share your moments of success and accomplishment amongst friends is what makes these moments so special. But what do we do when a friend is suffering from a form of depression?

When people are struggling with depression or just feeling down, the typical reaction is to bottle up your feelings, and soldier on. Particularly amongst Australian males, there’s an idea that we’re tougher than diamonds, and we are somehow immune to the burdens of depression or emotional pain. It’s seen weak and pathetic to talk about your feelings, which is a major problem.

In 2015, the ABS reported that suicide was the leading cause of death amongst men aged 15 to 44.

It’s also a major problem how we go about discussing personal issues with our friends and peers. We can find ourselves giving awkward, ineffective support when a friend reaches out to us. It’s confronting to hear that someone is feeling depressed, and we often avoid responsibility because it makes us uncomfortable. We need to be better about talking about issues with our friends and peers, in order to properly address the issue of depression. 

R U OK is a suicide prevention charity that promotes Australians to start conversations with those battling depression and hard times. Their research shows that ex-communication increases the risk of suicide, and thus aim to educate Australia how to reach out to those people at risk. Here is some advice they offer on how you can support your friends when they’re struggling.


1: Detective work

As a friend, it’s part of your job to be a detective and pick up on warning signs. You need to keep your eyes peeled and your ear to the ground to anything that might be an indicator. Whether it be that your friend has a mopey attitude of recent, is saying distant and negative things or something more serious, look for subtle patterns of behaviour that are out of the ordinary.


2: Make time to talk (and listen)

Reach out informally and arrange to talk over a drink or a coffee. Try and gently prompt the conversation to ask how they’re feeling at the moment. If they do open up to you, make sure you listen to what they are saying. It’s invaluable to them that their thoughts and feelings are heard, and that you understand what they’re saying. Try not to prescribe answers or guess what is going on, but let them know they’re in your thoughts.


3: Promote action

Talking about feelings is vital, but it’s even more important that something comes of it. Encourage them to take action and help them tackle the problem, and ask what you can do for them. Whether they need to socially reconnect or just try a new approach to the problem, it’s important we offer whatever advice we are qualified to. You should seek professional assistance if you suspect that depression is be the problem. 


4: Check in

Even if it seems like your friend is doing well, let them know you’re proud to see their progress! We tend to think our job is done. Depression can be a manic in and out process, so we need to make sure we are offering an ear every step of the way.


Check out R U OK for more on the issue, and be sure to utilise our database of wellness providers to help a friend in need!

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