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Down So Long: Helping a Friend With Depression

Monday, Feb. 6, 2012

The best student comment on "Down So Long" wins a $100 Amazon gift certificate. Entries must be received by midnight, Sunday, Feb. 19. Finalists are selected by "likes," so click the Facebook icon above to let your friends know about The Big Q contest.

Megan and Amy have been best friends since high school. Now, roommates for their second year in a row at college, they are still very close. But lately Amy has been pretty down, even depressed. She doesn’t want to socialize with their other friends. She doesn’t want to go out for food. She even struggles to get up for class.

At first, Megan was very patient with her friend. There was a time after Megan’s boyfriend dumped her, when Amy had been there for her. So Megan, in turn, spent several weekends in the dorms and brought meals back to the room to share with Amy. After a while, however, Megan insisted that Amy speak with a counselor about her troubles, but Amy became insulted and refused to go.

Megan has grown very worried about her friend, but she's also sick of Amy not doing anything for herself. Now Megan has a chance to go to a great party with a bunch of friends, but Amy seems especially unhappy. What should Megan do?

Useful Resources

Depression--from the National Institutes of Health

How to Help a Depressed Friend (And When to Stop Trying)

A Framework for Ethical Decision Making

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Comments Comments

streamofjiminycricket said on Feb 6, 2012
Depression manifests itself differently in all people. Most humans experience periods of depression off and on throughout their lives, but more rare is the condition chronic, or recurring due to trauma or chemical imbalance. I think as a long term friend Meagan should not give up on Amy. However it is important for Meagan to continue to take care of herself and make sure she still enjoys her life, even if Amy is struggling to enjoy hers. For this reason, I think that Meagan should go to the party. The best way for her to avoid hurting Amy is to inform her of her decision upon receipt of the invitation, that way Amy is unable to personalize her friend's decision. Assuming the invitation is offered ahead of time, Amy will have as much time as Meagan to prepare for the night. This way, come the evening of the party, even if Amy is especially unhappy, the two will be prepared for the situation. Perhaps they have agreed to have dinner together before Meagan leaves, perhaps they agree to go for a hike that afternoon. The most important aspects of the situation are the maintained mutual trust and respect between the friends. Amy needs the reassurance, during her time of struggle and suffering, that Meagan always has her back, while Meagan needs to keep her boundaries, so not as to enable Amy's negative behavior. It is widely known that one can only offer help to another if one can help oneself. If Meagan sacrifices all of her freedom and happiness for her needy friend, she will not be in truth communicating the best friendship, as she will be giving in to codependency. A tempting way to cope with depression as well as appease a loved one in need, codependency is not the same thing as friendship. The beauty of friendship lies in its nurture of individuals through judgment-free support, not in self-neglecting behavior on behalf of another. Although leaning on friends and family helps us through our rough times, it is crucial that Amy relearn to find consolation on her own, and establish independence from her best friend, so that she may resume an authentic and content lifestyle as soon as possible. Meagan need only be a positive supporting friend in the process to the best of her ability, which necessitates her sustained self-care. It is important to note that no signs of self-harm were depicted in the scenario. I note this because at the slightest sign of harm towards the self or others, we have a duty to each other (as friends and as humans) to protect each other. Thus if Amy were to show signs of potential harm, Meagan would have to find it within herself to reach out for additional care in order to lead to the road to recovery. - Like - 3 people like this.
Jack Small said on Feb 7, 2012
In Aristotle's "Nicomachean Ethics," he describes three types of friendships: those of utility, those of pleasure, and those of virtue. Although we can have different friends, each in their distinct category, we can also have the same friend vary through these categories. For instance, in the beginning of Amy and Megan's relationship, they were probably friends of utility (each was cordial while they gained some benefit from the other). As their relationship delveoped, they probably became friends of pleasure (they sought out each other's company because of the joy it brought). However, they--as well as all of us--are striving for a friendship of virtue (one in which each person's virtues are admired, respect is shared between, and both strive to improve one another). This scenario of Megan and Amy is a test of their virtue friendship. Megan knows that Amy is a good person and there is a lot to value in her, but if Megan continues to coddle her without any effort on Amy's half to improve, it is merely a friendship of pleasure. We can't always do what our friends want; we must do what they need. And in this case, Megan should go to the party, not only for because of her own desire to go, but also in hope that it will shock some life back into Amy. - Like
Julie said on Feb 8, 2012
It's clear that Amy is experiencing symptoms of depression. One of the hardest things that a friend has to do is decide how they should go about in helping their friend through such a difficult time. If Megan were a true friend, she would know how much her friend needs her and shouldn't even have to second guess about going to a party. - Like - 1 person likes this.
Guest said on Feb 14, 2012
I'd like Megan to start a conversation like this: M: Amy, can we talk for a few minutes - is now a good time. A: <sigh> M: I remember when I felt very withdrawn and you were there for me. Is that how you are feeling now, withdrawn? A: Kind of. M: I want to be available for you and I also want to go to this party with friends next week. How will it be for you if I go out? A: awful M: What would work for you? A: <shrug> M: ... A: Well, ... M: ... A: I guess I could go next door to stay for the evening. I want you to go to the party. M: OK; that feels right. I've been worried about you and wondering if I should call for some help, even though you don't want me to. A: No! M: Then I want you to promise me you want do anything dangerous. Have you been thinking of anything like that? A: Well, yes, thinking, but not doing, not doing. M: Thanks, I feel better. A: Me too. - Like - 1 person likes this.
Jeremy said on Feb 14, 2012
Based on the fact that it is difficult for Amy to even get out of bed, it sounds like she is going through a bout of clinical depression. This isn't "feeling down" and it isn't something that can be cured by dragging someone to a partyalthough there are no physical symptoms, depression is a legitimate illness. Obviously, it isn't Megan's obligation to cater to her friend at every waking hour, but as long as Amy is going through this it couldn't hurt to check up with her once or twice a day. If her condition worsens, Megan should contact a mental health professional. - Like
Marianne F said on Feb 14, 2012
As a Santa Clara student, I've been in both Megan's and Amy's positions. Her low mood, having lasted weeks, I would assume Amy to have a clinical case of depression. She certainly needs to talk to a professional, although for Megan's own well-being she cannot take it entirely upon herself to see that her friend gets the care she needs. In the position of giving Megan immediate advice, I would say to go to the party after having confirmed that Amy felt no danger of hurting herself. Megan has given much of herself lately to help her friend, and deserves and will benefit from time spent enjoying herself. And to ultimately help Amy, I offer a few suggestions. I benefited from talking to the staff at CAPS in my depression; Amy should know that the service is provided free for students. Megan may accompany her the first time if she feels awkward. Finally, I've found just the spot to leave a plug for my up-and-coming new on-campus club: TWLOHA (To Write Love on Her Arms) is dedicated to mental health awareness and support. At our Thursday evening weekly meetings- in the Campus Ministry Lounge - anyone may seek and offer advice in a compassionate and nonjudgmental environment. The group hopes to meet the lack of peer mental health support on campus. It can be easier to speak to someone in your same position than to walk into Cowell and request an appointment, I know. twlohascu dot org - Like - 1 person likes this.
Julie said on Feb 17, 2012
As a friend, Megan is definitely in a tough position because she doesn't necessarily know what Amy is going through and how she is feeling which makes it difficult for her to know what to do. The symptoms of depression expresses itself differently in each person. Amy seems like she is exhibiting some of the DSM-IV symptoms of depression and Megan should definitely try and continue to be patient with Amy because of the state of mind Amy is in. Trying to get a counselor was definitely a great idea but Megan should also try contacting Amy's parents because it seems like Amy's depression is getting worse and even though it may seem like Megan would be going behind Amy's back, it's better to be hated for something and have your friend alive then regretting and wishing you had done something differently. One of the biggest things I've learned about depression is how depression can feed on itself. Most individuals who experience the symptoms of depression lack energy, motivation and just have a "discolored" view on the world and those things combined can further contribute to the severity of depression. Megan should also try to slowly get Amy to do some of the things that she used to or at least try to get her out of her room and get her into some daily contact with people so that Amy isn't completely ostracized and feeling like she truly doesn't have anything in her life. This is a difficult and serious situation that many individuals find themselves in. The ways to approach it are different depending on the circumstance but I personally believe that you should never give up on a friend no matter how frustrated you get. - Like - 10 people like this.
Miriam Schulman said on Feb 24, 2012
StreamofJimminyCricket was the winner of this Big Q comment contest. Her careful analysis of the case and the duties of friendship impressed the judges. - Like
Kim Q said on Jul 26, 2012
Depression is a very serious illness. While Amy should not be left alone, it may benefit her to get out and have fun with some friends to help her take her mind off what is ailing her. I think that she should invite Amy to attend the party, have fun getting ready, and promise her that if she doesn't have a good time they will leave, but to get Amy to give it a try, may help her to get out of the dorm and have a good time. Although this time Amy may decide to leave after getting there, at least it helped take one step toward getting her to go out. Megan needs to remain by her side through her difficult times, and try to be a listening ear, and a close eye to keep Amy safe. - Like
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Tags: friendship