Q: I have this friend who lives close but I havenít seen in months. No one in our group of friends has seen her recently. Every time we make plans, she cancels, saying she is too sad or has been crying all day.
Iím really worried. She moved here more than a year ago to be closer to people she knows but has been unable to get out of the apartment consistently. We live in a big city, thereís lots to do. But it all seems to scare her.
Iíve mentioned therapy but she doesnít want to go. And I donít know how hard to push her to see a professional. I donít know whether to just drop by her place and say hi, or if she is looking for me to insist she come out when she cancels. Our other friends are having the same experience. What is the best way to help her?
A: She sounds dangerously depressed. If her family isnít part of the problem, then please tip them off as soon as possible to what youíve experienced with her lately.
Also, yes, drop by her apartment. Be prepared to be rebuffed ó but also be prepared to make an appointment for her to get medical attention, and to take her to that appointment yourself. An internist or general practitioner is often more accessible than a therapist, so start there if thatís what it comes to. Depression can be paralyzing and sometimes it takes someone willing to walk her to a source of help, literally.
And: Rally your group of friends to reach out to her in a non-intrusive way on a daily basis. Coordinate it as you would visits to a person in the hospital. Whether itís to leave a voicemail, send a text, post something where you know sheís likely to see it, make sure itís a reminder that you care and it doesnít come with any obligation for her to do anything.
So, for example, send/post a photo of something: "Hey, I just saw this and I thought of you. Miss you! No need to write back." These little lifelines push back against the voices of depression. Friends who check in and ask nothing are an essential counterargument.