What to say to your friend if they’re depressed

Around 4,500 British men take their own lives every year


Did you know that International Men’s Day exists? Outside of the alt-right meninist blogs yelling that feminism has gone too far and boys are being marginalised, the 19th November is a date we don’t really feel like we need.

Perhaps that’s the problem. Men may have it good in most walks of life, but of the 6,000 lives lost through suicide every year, three quarters are men. There’s a tendency for men to think themselves invincible, and mental health issues aren’t something that fits the macho image.

Stephen Buckley, Head of Information at mental health charity Mind, thinks this is why young men find it so hard to talk about depression. “Men like to try to find ways of dealing with their problems independently rather than reaching out and sharing their problems,” he says: “This is perhaps why men are more likely than women to keep problems to themselves rather than seeking help.

“Because men are often more closed about what they’re thinking or difficulties they are facing, it can be harder to spot if a friend or family member is might be experiencing depression or anxiety.

“There may be certain things that trigger your friend or relative’s depression, for example, feeling stressed at work, relationship problems or money worries. You may be able to learn what their triggers are, or spot when they are starting to find things difficult, and encourage them to take action before it gets any worse.”

But how exactly are you meant to act if your friend is suffering? Here, Stephen gives us his tips on how to act around your mate if they’re depressed.

Encourage them to seek help

Perhaps the biggest part of the problem is the old-fashioned myth that “real men don’t cry,” which still prevents men from reaching out for support before it’s too late. One of the most important things that you can do is to encourage your friend, relative or loved one to seek appropriate treatment.

You can reassure them that it is possible to do something to improve their situation, but you need to do so in a caring and sympathetic way. Mind’s new campaign, Find The Words, provides support and advice on how to talk to your GP about your mental health.

Don’t blame them

Try not to blame the person for feeling anxious or depressed, or tell them to “pull themselves together.” They are probably already blaming themselves, and criticism is likely to make them feel even worse.

Be patient

Someone with depression may get irritable, and be more liable to misunderstand others, or feel misunderstood, than usual; they may need reassurance in some situations, and you may need to be patient with them.

Talk about it

It takes a lot for someone to say “I need help,” but it doesn’t hurt to raise the subject yourself. Sometimes you don’t have to explicitly talk about mental health to find out how they are doing – it can be as simple as texting them to say hello, or finding time to do something together that you both enjoy.

Time to Change, the anti-stigma campaign run by mental health charities Mind and Rethink Mental Illness, has useful tips for having conversations about mental health.