I Don’t Know How to Handle a Depressed Friend

I really don’t.

Just seems like every move I make is the wrong one.

I used to check up on him every day via text. We are remote friends so a physical welfare check isn’t possible. But the texts were always perfunctory and not easy to establish a decent chat over.

Me: Just checking in on you… How are you today?

Him: I’m ok.

Me: ok, anything I can do? Want to talk?

Him: [no response]

And that’s how it’s been for MONTHS now. So I’ve kinda stopped reaching out on a daily basis, bc it didn’t seem to be helping anything. But when I don’t check-in daily, then I get a worrisome text from him instead.

So last month, when I skipped checking in daily I got THIS random text from him: “You realize that I’m researching how to kill myself, right?”

Sigh. No, I didn’t realize that bc he’s not really communicating with me.

So I resumed checking in on him daily but again, it doesn’t really seem to facilitate any conversation and it also doesn’t seem to be helping anything. He’s always the same.

This weekend I lapsed checking in on him bc it’s very tedious and I don’t understand the point if he’s not talking to me anyway.

And I wake up this morning to THIS text from him that he sent around midnight while I was asleep: “I guess being sad and depressed doesn’t mean much to you.”

I immediately text back: What do you mean? Are you ok?

Him: [no response]

But I know that he read it because my phone shows me when my texts are read. So he’s just ignoring me. Which I feel is kinda rude considering how much time I’ve spent reaching out to him.

Anyhow, I don’t know what else to do. I think I’ve decided that I’m not going to initiate any more texts with him. If he needs someone to chat with, he can reach out to me and I’ll respond. But I’m not initiating anymore. I’ve done enough of that and he’s not being very nice to me in return. Maybe I’m completely enabling him.

But I also feel guilty for thinking that way. What if he really needs to feel that someone is checking in on him? And without that, then he gets worse? Am I being a bad friend for stopping that?

Ugh. I really don’t know what to do. Have you all been in a similar situation? What would you do in my shoes?

This really just stinks.

17 Replies to “I Don’t Know How to Handle a Depressed Friend”

  1. So I’m going to play devil’s advocate, please don’t be offended. Are we sure he is actually depressed, or is he using this as a way to control and manipulate you? It seems odd to me that he says such worrisome things on days you don’t check in, but gives no information on days you do.
    When my depression was at it’s worst and I could barely get out of bed because my meds were all wrong, reaching out to people was hard, but I was so consumed inside my own head that I didn’t realize how long it had been since I talked to someone. I can’t imagine reaching out and saying the things he is. Maybe you need to step back for your own mental health and encourage him to find professional counseling when he contacts you.

    1. Hi Kristie! I agree. Because I don’t really believe that I’m helping him. So if I’m not helping the situation, then I don’t think any more effort from me is necessary. I haven’t heard back from him since then either, so… Aw, I hope you’re doing much better then. Definitely let me know if I can be a resource for you if you need me.

  2. Having been in his place before, kind of, I would say that his response sounds like he wants attention. Whether that is a cry for help or just an action taken out of loneliness, I don’t know.

    Have you told him explicitly what you just posted here? If not, tell him that you really do care about him and his well-being, but when he does not reply, it makes you feel like he doesn’t want to be in contact with you, and you don’t want to make the effort to check on him if he is not going to communicate with you.

    1. Yes, I’ve told him this before. I’ve told him that I don’t feel like I’m a friend to him because he’s not really interacting with me. And if I’m not a friend, then there’s probably other people in his life that can help him better. Is basically what I said. Perhaps he just wants to get rid of me, and I’m finally taking the hint. 🙁

  3. Pepper, I can’t see your comments or make a comment from the Reader. Did you do that on purpose? For a while now, I’ve just assumed you didn’t want people to comment, but this time you asked specific questions and I thought “she has to want people to respond!” So I came to your actual blog! I wonder how many people like me would be commenting but can’t because they’re in the Reader and don’t know better? I’m still figuring this WordPress thing out, but I can comment on the other blogs I follow from Reader. Just thought you might wanna know -in case it wasn’t something intentional.

    1. Hi there Mama Lava! Thank you for letting me know! Yes, that started happening to me when I moved from WordPress.com to WordPress.org. It messed up my comments from Reader. I know exactly what you mean, as I’ve seen it myself. I don’t know how to fix it, I’ve tried everything at this point, so it’s an annoyance I have to live with. But I do love your comments very much, so I’m truly sorry it’s not as convenient as it used to be. 🙁

  4. To comment on your post, that sounds very frustrating and also delicate. Someone got some advice from a therapist once and shared it with me and it might apply here. Learn to use these words:
    1) I am willing/not willing to…
    2) I am able/not able to…
    3) I am comfortable/not comfortable with…
    These might be a good starting place to set some boundaries and not place any blame where there may be fragility. Just an idea. 💛

    1. Love these options you shared! Thank you! I think I need to start using these phrases in MANY places in my life – not just with this depressed friend specifically. I can see how this could help set boundaries. 🙂

  5. It’s though. I have a couple of friends that have been through a bad time recently, and it’s so hard to both be there, but not appear to be there (because apparently that’s wrong too).

  6. I hate to sound harsh but I feel like he’s being manipulative. He does seem like he needs help but you’re probably not the person to provide it, he needs a therapist to talk stuff out with. When he reaches out to you to announce his plans of harming himself it seems attention-grabbing. Yet when you initiate convo with him he barely responds… If I were you I would tell him how much you care for him but reiterate that you think he needs professional help and you’re happy to be there for him but he needs to tell you how you can help in that communication goes a long way…. 🤷‍♀️

    1. It’s not sitting very well with me how he’s treating me overall. I can see how that can be manipulative. I don’t think I’ll interact with him anymore unless he’s being respectful to me. That’s just got to be a bare minimum standard for the people in my life. I haven’t got time to mess with anything less than that.

  7. This is a tough one. On one hand, you want to check in, because you don’t want anything bad to happen. On the other hand, there’s only so much you can do if he’s not responding when you do reach out.

    I have a cousin who’s not well. I tried to help, but it became very overwhelming for me, because I just couldn’t give her the type of help she needed. Her behaviour was becoming erratic and out of control. Sadly, I had to cut her off. She needs professional help that I’m not equipped to give.

    1. Oh, I’m sorry to hear about your cousin. How is she doing now? Any better? I think I’m finally in the same place that you were, about cutting them off. It’s time. 🙁

  8. Pepper in your post, you write about you being a friend to him. It’s all about what you’re trying to do for him. But what about vice versa? I don’t know the relationship you have with your friend, but it seems to me it’s a bit one-sided and dare I mention, manipulative? As in, he’s manipulating you? I am sorry he’s depressed and I get that sometimes we don’t want to write back, but it’s not feeling right the way he’s treating you. It’s more like cat and mouse and sprinkled with guilt that he’s depressed or saying he is researching wanting to kill himself.
    You’re a kind, loving person so of course, that makes you want to help him even more and feel guilty for not reaching out. Perhaps you could suggest that he needs professional help because you’re worried about him? Has that ever been mentioned?
    I am not sure what your relationship is to him and of course, as a friend we want to always help. But it sounds as if his responses are designed to elicit guilt with a narcissistic twist. Is he narcissistic?

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