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Wellness

When A Great Friend Has A Crisis: How To Stay Connected Through A Time Of Anxiety And Depression

Most of us have felt lost and alone since one of our loved ones has a major mental health problem.

Yet this is a common experience. It’s also quite common for a close friend to be left to navigate through a depressive phase without the support of others. With those friends who are emotionally available, this can be challenging – and can even have significant impact on the health and well-being of the one friend. And the sad truth is, this may be a scenario that will play out to the detriment of others on both sides – without the use of any particular coping strategies. It’s easy to get stuck in negative self-talk, or even worse, self-punishment, as we try to fight and win against a challenging situation.

And it’s even easier to get caught in the cycle of depression – which has been linked to a higher risk of both suicide and alcoholism.

So it must be a challenge for loved ones to come together, not only as supportive friends but also as friends with benefits who will work together to navigate through a depressive transition (or a crisis, or a crisis period) together, if they desire to do so successfully.

Here are several suggestions on how this might happen.

#1. Be available during depressive periods. You might not be immediately available to your friend during an anxiety attack or a day of negative self-talk that leads someone to worry and isolate themselves. In that case, use that time to take the opportunity to connect and learn more about each other.

#2. Take time to understand a friend more in terms of understanding their own personal struggles. For example, you might learn that the friend is often overly critical of themselves. So you might want to think about how you can encourage your friend to take a step back and evaluate their own actions.

#3. Create a supportive relationship of connection and support between you and your friend with feelings of depression. Make time to meet over dinner to discuss what’s going on at the time and what’s been going on in your personal life. As your friendship grows and you find yourself feeling closer together, you’ll find it easier and easier to take that next step and set a time and place to have a frank discussion with your friend concerning their own mental health.

#4. Provide a healthy space to feel vulnerable. When someone is really feeling fragile, it can be so easy to give in to depression. That’s why it’s important for everyone – especially loved ones – to feel safe to share feelings and feelings. A supportive environment will also go a long way in helping to keep you both safe and grounded after a difficult moment. For example, you could write together an open letter to convey with your emotions about the challenging situation, such as when your friend’s worries turn to “what if” and “what if that could happen to me.”

#5. Be willing to be the expert on your friend. If the depressed phase is still in progress, it’s important for a person who’s a support person and has a personal interest in learning as much as possible about a friend, to also become an expert in the person’s mental health journey.

#6. Ask your friend what they do to cope. Have a conversation during an anxiety episode in which you try to ask them what they are most comfortable using to respond to depression or other challenging emotions. This is an opportunity that can also serve as a way to begin a new conversation about coping strategies that will work even for people in stressful situations.

#7. Show compassion: Be concerned about how your friend is responding and how they perceive the crisis in their life. Encourage compassion and support through the use of your own personal example.

#8. Give them a positive place of strength. As a friend, it’s important that you do every possible thing you can to help your friend survive an uncomfortable situation and to feel connected.