Helping a friend with his Depression: Phil's Story
Helping Jordan with his depression
I started writing this a year ago would you believe! To be honest my life has just got in the way, but now I’ve finally found the time to complete it.
It’s difficult to know where to start with a piece like this, but I asked Jordan (or skateboard as he’s more commonly known) if he’d mind me writing a piece on my experience of dealing with his depression and he thought it was a fantastic idea.
I think I’ll start with the night that he told the our group he was struggling with his mental health. It must have been a Friday/Saturday night as we are at my house, drinking and playing card games around the dining room table. Jordan and I were sat at the table but the rest of the boys were in the kitchen. He called everyone in and said there was something important he wanted to tell us all. Jordan had previously spoken to me about it, so I was pretty aware of his situation, but I hadn’t realised the severity of it. Anyway, I can’t remember exactly how he worded it but I do remember we didn’t react in a particularly good way. Not because we didn’t care, but I guess because none of us really knew what to say. The night soon carried on and I guess we kind of swept it under the carpet. Now I’m not sure if Jordan felt this way, but I certainly still feel guilty about my initial reaction to it all.
Next came trying to understand and help Jordan with his depression.
The hardest bit was understanding ‘why’; Jordan had a supportive family, who he was very close with, a great group of friends, a job etc etc, all the normal things a 25-year-old has (wow that’s how long along I started this, he’s 28 now!). But I guess that’s it, isn’t it? Depression isn’t just being sad, its being down and not really having a list of reasons as to why you feel that way.
Initialing I remember thinking; ‘What the F@%k has he got to be sad about? His life is great, my life’s a lot worse!’At the time I didn’t really have a good understanding of mental health. So I looked into a bit and obviously as a friendship group we discussed it privately and started to begin to try and understand, help and do whatever Jordan needed to help him ‘get over it’.
We soon realised, getting over it wasn’t a thing and he needed to learn how to deal and live with his depression.
I think there are several key things NOT to do when a close friend tells you they are struggling with depression or anxiety. The obvious ones being not to say things like ‘cheer up’ and all the other obvious things that you see. With that being said you also certainly shouldn’t ignore the situation and pretend like everything is okay. In the early days of Jordans struggles, he’d often cancel last minute or not even arrange to come out at all. Now as a friend, you might think you are helping him by trying to force him to come out and spend time with his friends. This almost certainly isn’t the case most of the time. If your friend has declined an invitation to come out and you know they are suffering, dragging them out isn’t going to do anyone any good. If it’s like a big night out in the town this likely isn’t something they aren’t ready for. My advice would be arrange to meet them 1-1 or in a smaller group, but don’t make it seem like you are only doing this to help them, make it seem like its just a smaller group of friends meeting up together.
Ease up on the banter. Now if your friendship group is anything like ours it can be pretty brutal at times. Banter is great, and is certainly needed within a friendship group. Now I’d say this doesn’t mean drop the banter completely, because then you can make them feel excluded, just pick a subject(s) that you know they are fairly comfortable with.
Accept the fact your friend has changed now, for better or for worse and stand by them. Depression and anxiety isn’t just something that will go away and it will always be with them, so be conscious of this, even when they appear to be through the other side.
Now that’s enough the negatives, onto the positives. A key thing for me in helping Jordan was trying to understand his situation a little better. Do some research, either online or discuss with people you know have had issues in the past, as they might be able to give you advice on helping with the situation. Now Jordan is much better and has his depression/anxiety under better control, I now discuss with him when I need help with other people. Message them and check they are okay, not too intense though, if they take a few days to reply don’t be offended. Every situation is different, but I found with Jordan that a lot of the time he just needed some space. A text was enough for him to know you were there if he needed you.
If you know the parents well, it might be worth considering communicating through them, I’ve had many conversations with Jeff and Lynne to see how Jordan's really doing. Sometimes I felt that this just took the pressure off asking Jordan all the time, as I was aware he would have had a lot of family/friends who were worried about him. I just felt it might have been a bit overwhelming for him to keep repeating himself.
I honestly think Jordan is in a stronger position than he has ever been, he’s an extremely good friend, who I know will always be there for me. I hope that I played my part in helping his deal with this problems and ultimately I got my friend back. So my main piece of advice for anyone who has a friend struggling with anxiety or depression is to stand by them, because when they are at their lowest they need you more than ever.
Just a small throwback photo for you to finish! Back in our more athletic days!! 2009 I believe!