I've just seen a disturbing post of a young man I know. We once acted in a play together, but we've kept in minimal touch since. He's just posted a very distressing message: "I'm sorry everyone. I am giving up. Thanks for trying." It appears he has been suffering from depression and is now institutionalized. They are monitoring him closely and he is getting whatever treatment he needs. But as a friend, what words of encouragement or wisdom could I possibly offer that might make a difference?


Firstly, I commend you for reaching out to him. Any message of support, just saying you care and you are there, has immense power. Anything but silence is a positive step.

But maybe there is another way to make a difference. Rather than help him, you can turn it around. Ask him for help.

When you contact him, put aside the illness as if it didn't exist for a moment, and ask him for some advice. Think of his area of expertise and talent and tell him you need his assistance.

For example, if you are working on a drama piece, ask him how he would approach a difficult scene or how to present a particular character. Rather than just telling him "you matter and you are needed," you will actually be showing him that he is needed.

Now, obviously, we are dealing here with some serious health issues. They will not go away with one little conversation. It might not work at all. He may not even be receptive to being asked, or he may be incapable of responding. But if you have even a slight chance of getting through to him, it is worth a try. It might give him a moment of not being absorbed in his own issues. If he can focus on someone else for even a short time, that may serve as a little gasp of air, and he may be lifted, if even momentarily, above his darkness.

Sometimes the trap of depression is the self-absorption it brings. The best antidote for that is serving others. Give him a chance to do that. If nothing else, you will have expressed to him that whatever he is going through, he can still contribute to the world, and you value him enough to ask. That may be just what he needs to hear.