Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Reader Wants To Be There for Depressed Friend

DEAR HARRIETTE: I have a friend who has told me he is depressed. He has a therapist and seems to be working through his issues, but I worry about him. With so many stories of suicide these days, I don’t want to be the friend who didn’t notice the warning signs. He does still talk to me, and he says that he is seeking help. He broke up with his girlfriend about a year ago, and he hasn’t been right since. I want to be the best friend that I can to him during this time. What do you recommend? -- Fighting Depression

DEAR FIGHTING DEPRESSION: Continue to stay in close communication with your friend. Be a good listener. Notice if his conversation changes in a way that might indicate a pivot toward self-harm. If so, ask him if he is following his therapist’s directions and if he needs more support.

Otherwise, without casting any judgment, keep him engaged. Let him know how much you care about him, avoid offering your evaluation of his situation and remind him that you want the best for him. If he asks you for advice or guidance that you do not have the capability to give, tell him as much. Remind him that you are not a therapist. You are a friend.

Also, take care of yourself. Make sure that you do not get so immersed in your friend’s troubles that you forget to watch out for your mental, spiritual and physical health. Do not allow this friend to absorb all of your time. For more ideas, go to healthline.com/health/how-to-help-a-depressed-friend.

DEAR HARRIETTE: My mother is elderly, so my siblings and I tend not to tell her all of our troubles anymore. She gets to worrying, and it’s not good.

I’m supposed to have a routine medical procedure soon, and I’m a little nervous about it. Normally I would tell my mother, but I feel like I should keep it to myself. How do you think I should handle this? -- Protecting Mom

DEAR PROTECTING MOM: You are smart not to share all of the details of your medical challenges with your mother. Just as when you were little and you told your mother about a problem and she worried for days or weeks after you had gotten over it, so it is when your mother is older.

Instead, make sure that your siblings are informed about your health status and whatever you are undergoing. Have them monitor the situation so that if there is an emergency, they will be able to loop in your mother and address any serious concerns that come up.

At the same time, do not lie to your mother. It is better to speak in generalities with her so that she has a sense of what’s happening in your life. In this way, a medical issue does not have to be a total shock to her system. But you do not need to inform her of every test or procedure that you have.

(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to askharriette@harriettecole.com or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)