#RunAndTalk: How do we help a running friend who has depression?

Mental Health Ambassador and mental health nurse Trevor Kettle shares the role running played in helping a friend with depression.

Speech mark imageNot that long ago I recently experienced a period of stress that has been difficult to put a lid on, caused both by work stress and home stress. I found running and chatting with a friend helped me to put things in perspective and to see things in a more positive light. It has inspired me to write a short piece about how encouraging a friend in need to run and talk can be helpful in getting them through those dark times they may be experiencing.

As a mental health nurse, over the years I have often been asked what to say when you meet up with a friend who has been experiencing mental health problems in the form of depression. You may have encouraged this friend to go for a run and you are now thinking, what do I say to make them feel better? Do I have to be an expert to say anything? What if I say something that makes them worse? Is there a magic ‘formula’ of words that will help them feel better and are there areas you just don’t go to because they will do the opposite?

Actually, the reality is far simpler than that. Please have a look at this very short video from the Time to Change mental health campaign:

Video: Time to Change. Watch on YouTube

Its true, there is no magic formula. You don’t have to do anything different at all. You just have to be the friend you have always been. A simple ‘how are you?’ can often be enough. Your presence and friendship can be of huge importance in helping that friend manage on any one day. The fact that you have encouraged your friend out for a run can be just as important.

Conditions such as depression can easily make people become very lonely and friendless. The person will also no doubt feel unmotivated and lacking in energy, sort of flu like, which are some of the symptoms of depression. You may have noticed them not attending running club frequently. What can you do in that situation?

Well, its clear that there is a connection between running and improvements in mood. However, it is often that lack of motivation that will prevent a person with depression to get out on regular runs. Therefore, some gentle encouragement for them to join you for a run can often work wonders for that person. Just being there, in person, or on text, as a friend, can make all the difference in the world.

And finally, running is good for ALL of us regarding our mental health, always remember that!