This is going to be a rather long response, so please bear with me. Moreover, even though I’m suffering from several mental disorders and have been listening to others (and given advice when asked) for several years, it doesn’t mean that my words will be „foolproof“. I’m a sufferer, more or less I’ve always been that, so that’s the only perspective I can give you advice from. Whether that means something positive or negative, I don’t know.
Deducing from the way you’ve written this message, I’m assuming (and I apologise deeply in case I’m wrong) that you’ve never suffered from depression or any other mental disorder and thus, don’t know a lot about. Which is completely okay, so please don’t feel guilty about this. We all have to deal with a lot of issues and stress-inducing situations, and especially if you’ve never come „into contact“ with e.g. depression, it’s „normal“/„usual“ that you haven’t tried to learn more about this yet.
The thing is, in order to support your friend (no, not fix), you’ll have to educate yourself about depression. You are already recognizing the seriousness of this illness (as everyone should, albeit, people tend to suck, so it isn’t a given), but there’s more to learn. If you want to, you can click here. There you can find several articles about mental disorders (as this is my blog, I chose to „only“ add informational pages about the ones I suffer from. Depression is one of them. Click here.). Of course, you can look at other sites as well such as this one from the NIMH, this one from the Stanford School of Medicine or this Canadian site that is about depression. Of course, there are also many books about this topic.
Before I go on, though, there’s something else that needs to be said: Remember to take care of yourself. Some people may cry out right now and accuse me of advising you to do something selfish instead of telling you to devote yourself to your friend in need, but I’m going to put my foot down right here and right now. There is nothing selfish about taking care of yourself first. In fact, it’s a necessity. If you let yourself be overwhelmed by feelings such as frustration, helplessness or even guilt, you won’t be able to support your friend. I’ve seen the way my mother has done the exact opposite of my advice (as mothers tend to do) and I know how much pain this has brought her. The guilt I’m feeling is of immense proportions because I love her and never wanted to be the reason for her pain. Tell your friend that you will take of yourself, that way she can be assured that she won’t end up hurting you incidentally, thus she may not end up feeling any additional guilt to the one she may already be feeling.
Remember that you can’t fix her. Depression isn’t something that a friend or a family member can just fix, it’s treatable, of course it is, but it isn’t your job to be the solution to the problem. Depression is a medical issue. She needs you as support, but proper therapy and maybe even medication to „fix“ (what an atrocious word, I’m sorry for using it this much) herself, to learn to live again.
You’ve said that you’ve tried to talk to her, yet it didn’t work and that she’s „running away from her problems instead of facing them“. I hope I won’t offend you, but it sounds to me as though you weren’t really listening to her, but rather trying to advice her on what she should be doing. „You should be looking for help. You should talk to x or y. You shouldn’t just sit around and do nothing. You shouldn’t run away from your problems. Behaving this way won’t help you at all.“ I’ll be straightforward here: talking in that or a similar way won’t get you anywhere. Advice and „you-should-be-doing“-s aren’t helpful. No one wants to be told what to do, and especially when it comes to mental disorders, this will only end up in your friend not trusting you at all. Talking from personal experience, they might end up isolating themselves or reacting rather harshly towards your presumably best intentions. Instead of doing this, you should listen. This means that you should tell her that you are there for her and that you won’t abandon her. This might be a trivial thing for you, but a serious one for her. Depression tends to make people believe that „no one cares“ and that „everyone will leave her, after all she’s worthless/etc.“ Offer her a hug and compassion, but try not to use those off-the-rack-phrases like „everything will get better“, „this sadness won’t last“ or „life’s worth living“. Others have told me that these sentences made them feel guilty because they already knew this, personally, I become furious and very irritated when anyone dares to tell me these things because it sounds as though they are trivializing the pain, as though it doesn’t matter because “it will get better anyway”.
Things that you can ask her instead are: when did you start feeling like this? Have you thought of getting help? What can I do to help you?
Please remember to give her time. Talking about issues isn’t easy and it can take a while for her to properly open up, so don’t be upset if she decides to stay silent instead of replying to all of your questions. Just remind her that you are going to be there when she needs you. It’s the best you can do for her and yourself.
On another (as well as important) note, we need to talk about suicidal thoughts.
Depression is a serious illness. It can take a person’s life away in a short matter of time. One of it’s most important thefts is hope. If I don’t have any hope left, why I should I keep on living? Why should I keep going to school, why should I keep on eating, why should I keep on breathing? Answers to these questions are hard to find, leaving suicide as the best and only option. As a friend, listening to your friend’s hopelessness and pessimism may be difficult, but it’s important as you may have to evaluate whether it is necessary to call the ER. After all, her safety is important.
Last but not least, I obviously don’t know how old you or your friend are, thus it’s up to both of you whether or not you want to involve her parents/a teacher you trust/an adult, the thing is you’ll probably have to, if your friend decides to get treatment, which is another thing you’ll end up talking about at one point or another (if she’s underage or if she’s covered by her parents (talking insurance stuff here), thus it may be a good idea to suggest that you accompany her, so she won’t have to deal with the situation on her own.
I hope that you’ll find something useful in all these words. I’m sorry that I’ve written so much and I understand that it must be overwhelming, which is exactly why I wrote at the beginning that you should take care of yourself as well. Try to do as much (and as best) as you can, and remember that you are only human as well.
I hope your friend will manage to find a proper way to deal with everything.
let’s spend our week nights eating cereal on the floor
when there is a perfectly fine table behind us.
we can go to the movies and sit in the back row
just to make out like kids falling in love for the first time.
we’ll paint the rooms of our house
and get more paint on us than the walls.
we can hold hands and go to parties we end up
ditching to drink wine out of the bottle in the bathtub.
and slow dance with me in our bedroom
with an unmade bed and candles on the nightstand.
let me love you forever.