Don’t Cross the Fine Line


Written by McKenna Orrico, News Editor

Being the friend of someone who has depression can have an impact on your emotional and mental state. When you see someone you love going through something as treacherous as depression, your first instinct is to help them, but there is a line that many can cross that may be detrimental to your mental state. Someone else’s depression is something that is not easy to deal with and is not something you should necessarily be dealing with. When you help someone go through their battle with depression, you cause yourself to take the weight of the illness on.

You may feel that you do not have room to talk about how that experience made you feel because in hindsight you were not the one going through the depression, but that does not mean that experience did not psychologically impact you. It took me five years to talk about the first time I was on the other side of someone else’s struggle with depression. Dealing with someone else’s depression is not just something that adults and young adults have to go through. It is becoming more prevalent for the younger teen and tween community to have to handle. The situation in itself is stressful for any person to have to work through, but for someone who is developmentally and emotionally immature it can make it extremely easy to get sucked into that depressive state. In a span of five years, I have had to assist in that situation four times. I remember every single one of those word for word, and I am so glad I was able to be there for them, but it created extreme anxiety and even depression in my own life.

That psychological impact can lead to a number of disorders and illnesses such as depression, anxiety, survivors guilt, second hand trauma, and others. Especially when young, that situation can create an imprint on your developing brain, which makes prioritizing your mental health especially so much more important because you can get sucked into that void of darkness quickly. You are not trained to handle someone else’s depression, so trying to “fix” it without the proper training or understanding is not only a disservice to yourself but also to them. You may be stopping them from getting the proper help they may need to manage life with depression. Being there for a friend is very different than making yourself solely responsible for helping them. That is not your job. Your job is to support them to the extent of your capabilities. Feeling completely responsible for curing their depression can lead you to a very dangerous place. If you submerge yourself in what they are feeling, and then you can begin to feel that way yourself. There is a fine line between being a friend and becoming too involved. When you become too involved, that person starts to rely on you for every single emotional need they have. This becomes mentally and emotionally draining that you can no longer provide them with any adequate form of support which can ultimately hurt your relationship. Instead of becoming too involved, you can help them find proper psychological help from a professional or doctor that is properly trained to handle these situations.

There are certain situations in life you hope you never have to experience; getting that last phone call is one of them. You pick up the phone and hear someone you care about telling you goodbye because life has gotten so hard they can’t see things getting any better. You try to tell them that they are valued and loved, but they have it so set in their mind that they are not, that you cannot change how they feel. I have been that person for a number of people. I have been the person who has called their parents after they asked me not to; I have been the person who has had to sit there and listen to someone I love telling me how they do not see life getting any better. Someone I could never imagine living without is telling me they cannot imagine living. 

In one of the most stressful situations anyone can ever be in, you make yourself responsible for being that friends anchor. You feel that it is your job to make sure they are happy at all times even when you know that is not a realistic reality. It becomes so tiring that you start to see your happiness slip away. Your chest hurts everytime they do not respond right away, and your mind starts to race. You become so anxious that it will eventually become too much for you to handle. No matter the outcome, that situation will haunt you forever. It will be something you think about late at night when you’re alone because it is not something that you can just share with other people. It may be the reason why you resent yourself for the rest of your life because you feel that you failed them. If that situation ever gets to the point where they end up committing, you cannot take responsibility. You did everything you possibly could to help them. You are not the one who pushed them off that ledge, they jumped. 

Your mental health when helping a friend with depression is extremely important. The psychological effects it can have on you may be detrimental, so putting yourself first is essential. You are not expected to cure your friend’s depression. Your job as a friend is to support that person, so they are able to get the professional help they need. You trying to do too much for them might not be helping, it might actually be hurting. Finding that line between helping and hurting is essential for you and your friend to eventually reach proper mental stability.



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Zimering, Rose, and Suzy Bird Gulliver. “Secondary Traumatization in Mental Health Care Providers.” Psychiatric Times, Apr. 2003,