Talk to a Friend

Tapping into support

A large Canadian survey about depression showed that the vast majority of people look on men dealing with depression with compassion, care, and a willingness to help.  More and more throughout the world, the support is out there and growing – you just have to tap into it.

Most people are happy to be given a chance to lend a hand in a time of need. When you’re doing better, you can return the favour.

For nearly every guy who has overcome depression, the turning point in their recovery came when they reached out to a friend or family member for support.  And for a lot of these guys, it’s something they wished they had done sooner rather than later.

Men talking about depression
Talking about depression in men

Common stumbling blocks

Guys often contend with – and need to put aside – a few things when thinking about reaching out to someone:

  1. You want to “solve” this on your own. Trying to battle a major health condition on your own is like trying to push a boulder up a mountain by yourself – without someone to back you up, the thing is likely to run you over.
  2. You don’t want to be a burden. We all like to help out others whenever we can – it makes us feel good.  It’s frustrating when we know someone can use a hand, but they don’t ask for it or use it – that’s the real burden.
  3. You don’t want to look weak or crazy. Depression is a serious health condition that millions of men contend with every year.  There’s nothing about it that suggests weakness or craziness. It’s really no different than if you develop diabetes or high blood pressure – it happens and you work towards making it better.

Follow these steps

For a lot of guys, a big hurdle is figuring out how to get the ball rolling when it comes to reaching out to those around them.

Think of someone who

  • You are comfortable with and trust
  • Is likely to understand
  • Will take your situation seriously

Ideas for who to talk to

  • Friend, partner, or spouse
  • Family member (brother, sister, or parent)
  • Extended family member (grandparent, aunt, cousin, etc.)
  • Close co-worker
  • Someone who has experience with depression or mental illness
  • Someone who asked you for help in the past (he or she may be happy to return the favour)
  • A counsellor, coach, professor, or trusted member of your religious community

Start a conversation

Where and when you start a conversation is not as important as starting it in the first place. Keep in mind that it doesn’t have to be an intense conversation that you dread starting. Instead, it’s helpful to keep things casual – go for a walk, grab a coffee, or chat with someone while working.

The conversation doesn’t have to be perfect. It can be as direct and open or as indirect as you want. For example, saying something like, “I’m going through a tough time, and dealing with depression” or “I’ve been getting way too stressed lately and could use a hand” are both good ways to get things going. There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to this – just start with what is comfortable for you.

Prepare for different responses
Maintain ongoing support
Some useful ways to start a conversation
Prepare for different responses

When you open yourself up and say something real, most people respond with respect. But sometimes people don’t have the skill-set to respond in a helpful way. It’s important to keep in mind that you might encounter different responses when you reach out for a hand in your fight against depression – and to not be deterred if you don’t find what you’re looking for right away.

Let the person talk

It’s not unusual for someone to disclose their own challenges when you speak to them about your own. This is a sign of trust and mutual understanding. If you want to be heard, you need to listen. Hear out whatever your friend or family member has to say. Be as patient with them as you want them to be with you.

Not everyone will understand (and that’s okay)

Not everyone understands what depression is or how to help out with someone who has depression, so don’t take it personally if someone doesn’t seem to “get it”.

If it doesn’t work, try again

The first person you talk about depression with might not be able to lend a hand in the way you hoped for, but it doesn’t mean that there aren’t others out there who can help out. Keep looking and talking. With time, you’ll figure out who is best to connect with for a little support.

Be realistic

Each person you approach has his or her own life and responsibilities. If someone isn’t as helpful as you hoped, it might simply be a reflection of how busy they are with things going on in their life.

Show your appreciation

Sometimes the help that people provide is not exactly what we needed. Nevertheless, it’s good to express your thanks. The person will feel respected and be more apt to lend a hand in the future, if you ask for it.

Maintain ongoing support

Getting support from friends and family members can lift some weight from your shoulders as you work toward overcoming depression. But just as depression can wear you down, it can wear other people down too. Here are some tips to keep in mind so you don’t burn out your supports.

Don’t ask for too much

Put limits on how much you ask of any one person. For example, you may want to set some limits on how often you text or phone the person.

Don’t expect others to be able to steer you to recovery

You are the one who is control of your health and leads the charge in your battle against depression. There are lots of people who can support you along the way, but ultimately you have to be responsible for your own health and well-being.

Don’t let your relationships become consumed by your health

Make sure to limit how much your health is the topic of conversation with friends and family. Relationships are maintained around the sharing of mutual interests and pleasures.

Be there for them too

A healthy relationship requires give and take. If you want friends or family members to listen to you, you need to be open to listening to them as well. If you can’t manage this at the time, let the person know that you will be there to return the favour when you are doing better.

Some useful ways to start a conversation

The list below includes some useful ways to start a conversation when reaching out to a friend or family member.

  • “I’ve been having a hard time lately. Getting really stressed out. You mind if I bounce some ideas off you?”
  • “I’ve been pretty stressed lately and could use someone to shoot the shit with. When might be a good time to chat?”
  • “I’ve been feeling a bit off for a while – kind of moody and stressed out. Have you noticed anything different about me lately?”
  • “I’ve been feeling off for a while now. Have you ever found yourself in a funk that was hard to get out of?”
  • “I haven’t been feeling myself lately. Little things seem to be really getting to me and it’s been hard to keep up with things. Not quite sure how to turn the ship around. Do you have any suggestions?”
  • “I made an appointment with my doctor the other day and he thinks I might be suffering from depression. I don’t really know much about depression. How about you?”
  • “My doctor recommended seeing a counsellor. But it’s tough trying to find one, let alone figure out if they are good or not. Would you be able to give me a hand to figure out where I can go?”
  • “I’m really falling behind on some chores. When are you getting groceries next? Maybe we can go together.”
  • “I want to get out more these days but I don’t have the energy. If you can think of something to do and plan it out, I’ll be more likely to get my ass out of the house.”

Watch Tip Videos: Rich, Starting a Conversation, and Mitchell, Talking to Friends and Family.

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