Teen Health 411
Teen Health 411

Helping Friends Who Are Stressed And Depressed

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We all have bad days or even months, and we all feel overwhelmed or like we cannot cope, but it is important to remember that things will always get better. Sometimes it helps when our friends tell us that!

There are three ways people tend to react to problems. We get angry, withdraw, or take charge and change the situation. Obviously, changing the situation is the best way to handle a problem, but sometimes we cannot make ourselves do what we know is best. When we start to withdraw, get depressed, or get angry, it is usually a friend who can help us understand that there might be a better way to handle our feelings. Even if we say "leave me alone," we always need our friends, so keep trying.

If you have a friend who is being angry, driving recklessly, striking out at people they love, drinking, swearing, breaking things, or being a jerk in general, chances are good they feel out of control. Withdrawing can be just as destructive, and when we are alone, it is easy to become depressed.

If your friends are in trouble, you may notice some of these warning signs that last more than two weeks:
  • avoiding friends, activities, school, or social events
  • unable to think about anything other than the problem
  • unexpected outbursts of anger or crying
  • unable to sleep, always feeling exhausted
  • unable to eat; or eating and vomiting
  • sleeping too much or daydreaming all the time
  • severe behavior change - quiet person becoming wild
  • person becoming withdrawn
  • excessive use of alcohol or drugs
If you notice these things in your friends, take them seriously, encourage them to talk to people, and let them know you care. Remember CLUES:"
  • C Connect. Reach out, make contact, talk, notice how bad they feel.
  • L Listen. Take the time and really pay attention. Do not try and fix things -just listen.
  • U Understand. Nod, pay attention, let them know you can see they are going through serious stuff.
  • E Express concern. Say that you care, are worried, and want to help.
  • S Seek help. Tell them you want to go with them to talk to a counselor or another adult. Do not keep secrets.

Photo credit: redshipper
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About the Author

Dr. Brown is a developmental psychologist specializing in adolescent health.

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