For the last few weeks, I have been trying to reach out to a friend who has been battling depression because I want to help. Since this person confided in me, I have sent a few text messages and emails offering support, and I have only received one brief response.
I know this friend has support through family and other friends, and I don’t want to overreach, but I do want to be helpful and supportive however I can. Am I overreacting? Should I be more willing to let go? Or is there some better way to do this?
Determined to Help
Your thoughtfulness and empathy make it clear that you’re out there trying to be the best friend you can be, which isn’t easy under any circumstances and is certainly more challenging when your friend is going through something difficult. As long as you continue to have that attitude of support and caring and compassion, the specifics of what you do aren’t tremendously important.
Sending text messages is great. You may want to stick to open-ended things that don’t look like they’re asking for a response, like, “Thinking of you,” (as opposed to, “How are you?”). That way, your friend doesn’t feel pressured to respond, and you don’t have to feel like you should be waiting for a response. Your friend may not have the energy or emotional bandwidth to reply, but knowing you’re sending good thoughts is likely to be appreciated.
If you think your friend is in danger of self-harm or needs more immediate active intervention, think about who you can reach out to from that network of family and friends. But this should be reserved for real concerns of emergency, not just a lack of response. You don’t want to be in the situation of potentially escalating things unnecessarily or possibly betraying your friend’s confidence.
On the other hand, you absolutely should not feel like you are alone in your concerns or that you are the only person who knows what’s really going on.
If you’re investing a lot of time and energy into worrying about this person’s well-being without any additional concerns coming to your attention, you may be overreacting. You also may be extremely empathetic and want to do right by this person.
I would encourage you to reach out to a mutual friend (or even just a trusted friend of your own) and talk through your concerns. Hearing about a shared experience from someone else’s perspective could help you gauge your level of involvement and concern.
I am not a mental health expert, but based on what you’ve told me, you’re doing the right things by checking in and staying aware of your friend’s needs without sounding alarms or trying to get more involved in someone else’s situation. Keep being available and kind. Your friend is lucky to have you.