My Best Friend is Depressed

Question: I’m a freshman in high school and my best friend is depressed. Since she doesn’t want anyone to know about it, I only hear about what’s going on from other people and I don’t know what to do. I don’t think her parents know what’s going on. The times I’ve tried to talk with her about her depression, she gets mad and won’t talk to me for a few days. I try to hang out with her as much as I can but I have to keep up with my homework and chores. I’m pretty sure that she’s cutting herself. I worry a lot but I don’t know how to deal with depression. What can I do?

Answer: First, allow me to congratulate you on being such a good friend. She is lucky to have someone who cares so much about her. As a counselor, let me assure you that I know exactly how you feel and that is helpless. It is very difficult to stand by and watch someone suffer but, especially in the case of depression, there is not much you can do until she is ready for help.

It sounds like you are doing all that you possibly can. You’re there for her both physically (by going out) and emotionally, so if she feels like talking about whatever is bothering her, you’re there. However, you cannot allow her depression to negatively affect your life as well. Since both of you are freshmen in high school, I assume that school is an important factor and you probably have family, other friends and extracurricular activities to occupy your time and interest as well. This is as it should be and hopefully your friend feels the same way. A good friend will want her friend to be happy even if she herself is not.

Depression and self-harm can be quite serious, especially during the teenage years. There is not much you can do for her other than what you’re already doing, so perhaps it is time to ask for help from caring adults. Your school counselor would be a good place to start or maybe your parents or hers could have some good ideas. If nothing else, your friend could visit a website like Teen Health and Wellness which provides a list of hotlines she can call or a site like that gives people a place to read about and connect with others who are experiencing the same thing. The site even has a section on How to Help a Friend that might be helpful for you as well. Neither of you have to go through this alone. Sometimes taking a community approach by letting others help is better for everyone involved.

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