Dear Dr. Michelle:
My best friends are kind of sad and I think one of them is depressed. A lot of it has to do with the coronavirus and how our lives have changed. I don't know what to do. I want to help and have promised them that I will. I thought about doing a therapy group where all of us would open-up and talk. But I don't know how, or what to do if they start crying or feeling worse, or if the advice we give each other is ok. By the way we are 15 years old.
I am sorry to hear that your friends are sad and depressed. Your group of friends is very fortunate to have each other during this difficult time.
Friends can be great support in tough situations, so I would recommend you continue to initiate as much interaction as possible, even if it can only happen through video chats. Try to come up with creative ways to spend time together over video. Think of ways to change things up a bit to bring more humor and fun into your interactions. Laughter, humor, challenging games that make you think – these are all ways to increase the body’s natural release of serotonin, which will increase feelings of happiness.
You mentioned a very creative idea of doing therapy together. If you want to do something like this there are two ways to go about it. The first way would be for your friends to gather on a regular basis (via video for now) and just talk about issues or problems you are experiencing. Share your thoughts and advice and offer support to each other. I would recommend you refer to this activity as a support group rather than a therapy group. You do not want you and your friends being each other’s “therapist.”
If you decide to have your own support group, the only way you will know if the advice you are sharing with each other is helping is by asking directly. Also remember, advice is different than telling somebody what to do. Stay away from telling your friends what to do. Simply use the time together to share opinions and talk through possible outcomes of different decisions that could be made. And if somebody does cry, just be there for them. Give them time to cry. Feelings are meant to be felt and expressed.
The other path you could take is for your group of friends to contact a professional therapist and ask them about group therapy. Engaging in group therapy with a professional can be extremely effective, particularly with a group of teens of similar age, who are already willing to help and support each other. What you should know about group therapy is that there will be a fee. The cost per person for group therapy is generally more affordable than the cost for individual therapy. Make sure that if you decide to pursue this path, you tell your parents and they have given their permission.
Finally, there are times when friendship isn’t enough, and professional help is a must. This would be particularly important for instance, if your friend’s depression is bad enough that it is interfering with their daily life (i.e. poor school performance; loss of interest in hobbies/sports; depression is leading to family problems or friendship issues).
Professional help is vital if your friend were to express suicidal thoughts or actions. If this ever becomes the case, immediately report your friend’s feelings or actions to their parents or other loved ones. If that does not work, call your emergency number to get your friend some immediate help. Never promise a friend that you will keep their suicidal thoughts a secret. Do not convince yourself you can help your friend resolve their suicidal feelings. At that point, they need the support of an expert who knows how to provide the proper supervision and interventions. Your role should merely be one of support – a friend who will listen to them and take their problems seriously.
Dear Dr. Michelle blog posts are informational in nature. The posts are not meant to take the place of consulting your physician, mental health professional, or other qualified health providers regarding your well-being or the well-being of others. Submitting a question does not establish a client/therapist relationship.
Submit Your Question on mental health and/or family relations to Dr. Michelle K. Murray.