But don’t overthink it. The key initially is just getting a professional involved so you are not the only person managing this situation. (That said, if that first appointment seems really unhelpful, trust your instincts and find someone else.)
Take care of yourself and set boundaries
When the thoughtful and kind people we’ve loved for years are depressed, they may also become uncharacteristically mean and self-centered. It’s exhausting, painful and hard to know how to respond when they pick fights or send nasty texts.
“You don’t have to attend every argument you are invited to,” Ms. Devine said.
Still, just because someone is depressed is not a reason to let their abusive behavior slide. Set clear boundaries with straightforward language such as, “It sounds like you’re in a lot of pain right not. But you can’t call me names.”
Similarly you may find that your friend’s demands on your time are starting to sabotage other relationships or your job. You’re not going to be able to help if you’re not in a good place yourself.
It’s O.K. not to be available 24-7, but try to be explicit about when you can and cannot help. One way to do this, Ms. Devine advised, is to say: “I know you’ve been really struggling a lot, and I really want to be here for you. There are times that I physically can’t do that.”
Then come up with a contingency plan and kindly push her to stick with it. Coming up with a consistent schedule for when you’ll see each other every week can be helpful to you both.
Remember, people do recover from depression
It can be hard when you’re in the middle of the storm with a depressed friend to remember that there was a time before, and hopefully an after, this miserable state. But it’s essential to remind yourself — and the person you’re trying to help — that people do emerge from depression. Because they do.
I have seen it. Every single one of the experts quoted here has seen it, too. But it will take patience and time.