Helping a Friend with...

Anxiety or Depression

During this difficult time, we all know someone (or we struggle with ourselves) with anxiety or depression (or both). Eighty percent of all mental health diagnosis are related to anxiety and depression. As family, friends, and followers of Jesus, we have an opportunity to help in significant ways.
How to help someone suffering from anxiety or depression:

1) Be vulnerable. We help the weak by being weak. Paul called himself weak eleven times in I and 2 Corinthians. It's a fact - we are all weak in many different ways. But God makes our weaknesses our strengths. How? Weakness attracts others and leads to connection. Vulnerability connects. Weakness gives us an opportunity to build rapport with our family and friends. Don't make the time about you, but share vulnerably. It will open the heart - both hearts.

Of course Jesus leads the way on this one. At his greatest time of weakness (the cross),
Jesus accomplishes His greatest victory - drawing us to HIm. He said in John 12:32:

And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.

2) Listen to understand. LIsten. The words "listen" or "hear" are found 771 times in the Scriptures. Taking time to listen to others in a non-judgmental fashion is crucial to helping. As a society (or in most churches), we're not good listeners. We want to get our two cents in and often find ourselves hijacking the conversation. Listening is both a skill and an "emptying out" of ourselves. It takes heart and energy.

Paul said this about his young friend Timothy, in Philippians 2::20:
I have no one else like him, who will show genuine concern for your welfare.
Don't assume you already know the answers to their problems. Take a stance of "not knowing" and be amazed at what you can learn from your friend and their issues. Listen with humility and listen for clues to success. Listen with your heart.

3) Ask well thought out questions. Jesus was a master at asking the right question, at the right time, in the right way to produce astonishing results. Questions can powerfully change the direction and effectiveness of the conversation. Questions that communicate solutions.

The direction of our questions lead the conversation. If we ask negative questions, then we may go in a negative direction; on the other hand, if we ask forward thinking questions, questions that contain faith, we go toward a solution.

A few questions I use are: "Help me understand" or "Can you give me some insight to what you just said?" or "Tell me more..."

I hope these thoughts help you as you strive to love those struggling with any mental health challenge.

May God bless you as you walk with Him in 2020!

Look for more in the coming weeks on how to build positive communication with your friends.

Dr. Timothy Sumerlin
In Motion Counseling