Talk to a Friend

When we ask someone for a hand, we show confidence in them and their ability to help out. There are a lot of people out there who want to provide any support they can.

Men talking on bench at park

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.[1] More and more throughout the world, the support is out there and growing.

Most people are happy to be given a chance to lend a hand in a time of need. When we’re doing better, we 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 on couch

Common stumbling blocks

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

  1. We want to “solve” things on our own. Trying to battle a major health condition on our own is like trying to push a boulder up a mountain by ourselves – without someone to back us up, the thing is likely to run us over.
  2. We don’t want to be a burden. We all like to help out others whenever we can – it makes us feel good.  But it’s frustrating when we, ourselves, know someone can use a hand, but they don’t ask for it or use it – that’s the real burden.
  3. We 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 a guy develops diabetes or high blood pressure – if it happens, we 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 we 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 we open ourselves 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 we may encounter different responses when we reach out for a hand in the fight against depression – and to not be deterred if we don’t find what we’re looking for right away.

Let the person talk

It’s not unusual for someone to disclose their own challenges when we speak to them about our own. This is a sign of trust and mutual understanding. If we want to be heard, we 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 can figure out who is best to connect with for a little support.

Be realistic

Each person we approach has their own life and responsibilities. If someone isn’t as helpful as we 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 our thanks. The person will feel respected and be more apt to lend a hand in the future, if we ask for it.

Maintain ongoing support

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

Don’t ask for too much

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

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

We are the ones who are in control of our health and lead the charge in our battles against depression. There are lots of people who can support us along the way, but ultimately we have to be responsible for our own health and well-being.

Don’t let your relationships become consumed by your health

Make sure to limit how much our 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 we want friends or family members to listen to us, we 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.


References:

  1. Seidler, Z., Rice, S., Kealy, D., Oliffe, J., & Ogrodniczuk. (2020). Getting them through the door: a survey of men’s facilitators for seeking mental health treatment. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 18, 1346-1351. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11469-019-00147-5