Your email is a beautiful example of caring and wanting to help another. I am particularly impressed that your question highlights the sensitivity to the needs of this other person. Above all, you are approaching the help this person needs by trying to figure out what they need, not simply what you want to give. This is the most important consideration.
When someone is in a difficult place and is showing signs of depression the depression symptoms can vary from mild to severe and can include:
- Feeling sad or having a depressed mood
- Disengaged, with a loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed
- Changes in appetite — weight loss or gain unrelated to dieting
- Insomnia or sleeping too much
- Loss of energy or increased fatigue
- Anxiety-related physical activity (e.g., hand-wringing or pacing) or slowed movements and speech (actions observable by others)
- Loss of meaning or purpose, feeling worthless or guilty
- Difficulty thinking, concentrating or making decisions
- Thoughts of death or suicide
While the condition of depression is typically something a mental health professional, such as a clinical psychologist or other therapist diagnoses after an evaluation, there is a self-assessment tool here and learn more about depression here that can offer some feedback.
If your friend has not revealed the specifics of what they are upset about it is most likely because they are already doing this with someone else, are ashamed, or are not able to find the words to narrate their feelings. Trying to get someone to talk when they are not ready or unable can backfire. The subtle message is that unless they talk about their feelings with you they will be rejected- or feel as if they are.
Your best approach is to let them know that you care for them, that you sense they are going through a tough time, and that you want to be there for them, but also wanting to respect their privacy and their process. Let them know you can be there to talk or to be a distraction. Talking isn’t the only way to help people feel better. Sometimes just going to a movie, having a cup of tea, or taking a walk together is enough. Sometimes pain just needs to be witnessed by someone who cares for it to dissolve.
Wishing you patience and peace,
Proof Positive Blog @ PsychCentral