A Guide to Supporting Those in Need


Art by Sophia Wickens

Lavinia Kizer, Reporter

How To Support a Friend Who is Struggling With Depression 

When seeing mental health resources there’s mostly information on how to get help for yourself. Yet, there’s very little information on how to support others who are struggling. When engaging in a conversation about depression and suicide, it can be uncomfortable and intimidating. People don’t know what to say.

According to the Let’s Talk toolkit created by the Marin Prevention Network and the Marin County Office of Education, 29% of Marin County 9th graders say that they have experienced chronic feelings of sadness and hopelessness. By the 11th grade, that number jumps to 35%. 

School psychologist Arezu Iranipour and Restorative Justice Specialist Amber Yang provided tips on how to help a friend struggling with depression. 


Understanding your role

Yang says that it’s key to listen and observe what a friend might need in terms of support. Best not to try to take it upon oneself to determine what a friend needs in this situation.

 “The expectation is that you’re not going to fix anything. The expectation is that I as your friend is just to listen,” said Iranipour. She adds that if you approach the conversation in this way (not trying to fix them), many people will become expressive, without feeling like a burden.


Letting them know that you’re there

“A really helpful way to start a conversation with a friend is just to say that you’re there,” said Iranipour. “‘You can always talk to me, you can always rely on me to listen.’ Letting them know that you care about them and you see and want them to be okay.” 

Iranipour also says that it’s important to tell them that they don’t have to tell you everything. Whatever they’re most comfortable with. 

“You can tell them very clearly, ‘I don’t expect you to say all of the things.’ And don’t expect them to say anything back,” she adds. 


Find out what they need

Yang explained that it’s not clear exactly how to help people because everyone is unique and different in their feelings. Watching their body language is helpful if the support you’re giving is not working. 

“They will often shut down, look away or not engage. So a lot of it is listening to that,” says Yang. Giving a friend the space to talk about what’s going on can be really helpful for some. And for others even just sitting with them, silently, but being there with them can be very supportive.


Help them reflect on their feelings 

Yang says that people who are struggling with depression often have negative thoughts. As a friend you can help break those cycles. 

“Oftentimes, it would be really interesting if the friend said ‘Do you think that’s true?’ or ‘Why do you think that is?’. Really asking questions so that people can hear their own thoughts because sometimes those thoughts are irrational,” said Yang. 

Everyone is capable of reaching out. 

Iranipour said, “Everyone has the capacity to be there to support a friend at all different comfort levels.”