I've dealt with depression since I was nine years old. There have been many people who have tried to 'help' me with my depression but not all of them were really helpful - in fact, some of them were actually very harmful.
Here are some of the things the more helpful people did:
1) They were always there to listen first. Regardless of what their ideas about depression were, these were the people who opened their hearts and ears to sit down and listen to me talk to them about everything on my mind. This was helpful because it made me feel less alone.
2) They never asked me questions like:
'What's wrong with you?'
'Why is it so hard for you to cheer up?'
'Oh, you're STILL down? It's been weeks!'
Instead, they just took things as they were and never questioned me.
3) They were always available for me when I needed them. To be honest, depressed people seldom reach out to people, but it was always nice knowing that people cared enough about me to let me contact them whenever I wanted. I seldom did, but the few times I did, they listened.
4) They treated me as a human being regardless of what my depression made me look like. When someone has depression, they become a shell of their former self. They lose interest in things that they use to value a lot. You may not even recognize them. When this happened to me, what helped most was for my friends to not say anything about how much I changed. Instead, they acted as normal as possible.
Eventually, with their support and my own efforts, I managed to survive around 9 bouts of depression throughout almost 20 years.
Hope this helps you and your friend. All the best!
This is my opinion, it is necessarily general, but it aims for the 'heart' of the matter. Please only take what resonates, what 'feels' right for you.
First of all, it is worth understanding and acknowledging that depression is a complex state and whatever form it may take NOW, it is born of traumatic experiences in early life which the child could not cope with. These traumas may be emotional, physical or psychological - usually a mixture. The scars are invisible, but the effects clear.
The tragedy is that people who are hurt in childhood often lash out at those who try and help them, this is a very oft-repeated pattern. To distract someone by providing fake 'positivity', or dragging them along to an event that they are reluctant to go to, will not do much good.
For someone in 'depression', THAT is where they are, THAT is where the action is! In order to 'help', you will need to enter their world and not try and drag them into yours, or into any other!
I think that if you wish to help your friend, then perhaps the first thing you can do is to *listen*.... actively listen to her pain as she expresses herself, encourage her to talk - hear what she is saying over and above the words, guide her gently to explore rather than blame or go round in circles. Perhaps she will be able to open up and talk to you about it - IF she trusts you, and if you clearly indicate through your words and reactions that you are willing and able to give her your FULL attention. Neither of you may know where to begin, doesn't matter, if you give her your attention and let her find the way without you trying to control the conversation, then what needs to be expressed WILL be expressed.
If you are able to provide your friend with a soft, calm and non-judgemental space in which to express herself, she may be able to open up and herself start to untangle the complexity of her 'depression'. You may be able to provide or spot valuable insights into it.
This is a great service to give anyone, it is a tremendous gift when given unconditionally - yes, UNCONDITIONAL - you have to rid yourself of wanting anything in return, even a 'thank you'. It is very healing to express oneself and know that one is 'really being heard'. Loving attention of this nature provided by a caring friend/companion can release a lot of the kind of suppressed energies that go into a 'depressed' state of mind. If you are this friend, if you know her well, if you wish to help, you can most certainly do so in a profound manner!
However, BEWARE! You cannot bring your own judgements, likes or dislikes into the discussion. It is NOT about you, and you HAVE TO understand this. As soon as you start getting irritated, or your mind wanders, or you start judging or interrupting with your opinions on what is 'good' or 'bad' - as soon as this happens, you stop providing the space for your friend. You start making it about you, and this is not helpful. I'm not saying it is easy, it is not.
A hypothetical example: at some stage, after she opens up a little and you are feeling as if you are making good progress, she then says something that you don't like - she may contradict you, or tell you that what you say is bullshit., she may verbally attack and call you names What do you do? If you fight back, you are making it about you and that serene space you have provided is now disrupted! Also, YOU might have said something that provoked this response - very possible infact! It takes two hands to clap, and if you are able to refrain from making it about you, you continue to hold this 'sacred' space for her. She may or may not realise this of course - she is in her trauma and may be 'acting out' aspects of the pain/trauma. Do not imagine you have to lie 'ever' - oh no, you will also need to not bullshit. It is about Truth and Honesty, it is about getting away from lies, it is about 'unconvering' the lies we have come to believe as true! You may also be strongly tempted to say how you feel or think, but this again draws attention away. It can be put it aside for now, it can be spoken about later, when she is not in the depths, and then she will most likely also be able to see your point of view, especially if you were hurt or offended.
While we are here, let us also acknowledge that YOU most likely also have pain and trauma of your own. This may or may not be (have been) acknowledged by either you, or anyone else. We all carry heavy loads! One thing about the process of healing however, is that it works on both parties - on your friend AND on you! If you have pain/trauma of a similar nature to your friend's, it is possible that this may be triggered within you - please be aware of this. I think you may be strong enough to handle it if it is the case :)
And don't fret about having to bear lots of information in mind :) - just set the intention to help. Maybe 'visualise' how you will provide this space for her beforehand - imagine it in your mind's eye. Then let it roll and trust the process. The process has benevolent energy and intelligence of its own and you do not need CONTROL!
You are not making yourself small or insignificant by providing this service - you have posted this question and you obviously wish to do something - you have set the ball rolling :D. You are calmly standing at the mouth of the well holding out your hand and not judging your friend for being at the bottom - in the dark, in the cold, in the damp; alone and frightened. You don't need physical strength to pull her up, just your unbroken, loving attention and selfless support.
Depression is not just a moment of grief or distress, but a psychiatric disorder that needs special handling. Unfortunately, not everyone knows how to deal with a depressed friend. The ignorance ultimately makes people who are depressed feel alone and do not get support from the people closest. Moreover, people who experience depression also does not always show clearly that he is depressed. They often act normal in front of the crowd.
Then, what do you need to do if you know of any relatives or friends who are depressed? Here are some things you can do to help a depressed friend.
1. Find out more about depression
It's a good idea to find out about psychiatric problems, especially depression to help you know what your friends are experiencing. Studying depression will help you calculate what you can and should not do when facing a depressed friend.
2. Listen to the curence of a depressed friend
The simple thing you can do is listen to a depressed friend. Perhaps you will assume that the problems they face are not too heavy. However, do not ever say, "The new age just so you've been upset?" Or, "You are just too much,".
This is because the depressed person is indeed a different psychic condition with a healthy person. They lose the ability to think clearly, make decisions, and be positive. So saying things like that instead of whipping up a depressed friend, it only makes it worse.
3. Do not break communication
People who are depressed tend to withdraw from the environment. They prefer solitude in silence. For that, you need to keep your communications with your friends.
4. Invite friends to seek help
It is not easy to get people depressed to seek help. For example by going to a psychologist or a mental health specialist. They will assume that they are fine and just need time to be alone.