Taming the Black Dog

Taming The Black Dog:

The black dog is like a demon which will control how a person thinks and feels about themselves and the world around them.

When we train a dog to behave in a certain way we need to talk to him, sometimes very firmly. Our aim is for the dog to obey us not the other way about. If you have a friend who is struggling with life it is like they are being controlled by an outside force. We need to help them take control of that force (the black Dog) so that they are the master or the one in control.

Taming the Black Dog
Control the Black Dog

You Have Observed Some Worrying Changes in Your Friends Behavior!

What Can You Do as a Friend?

If you have observed several worrying changes in your friend or loved one which seem to be forming a permanent part of their personality and behavior then you need to consider seriously having a conversation with them or if you do not feel competent or confident enough to do it then introduce them to a third person who is skilled and sensitive in encouraging people to open up about how they are feeling.

Do not wait until the changed patterns of behavior have become a habit. It can take a long time to break a habit once it is formed.

Here are a few tips to help

Talk about depression with a friend
Talk to A friend
  • Choose a time and place where both of you will feel comfortable and relaxed and free of interruptions or distractions. Begin with some easy flowing talk about how they are feeling lately. Perhaps say something like ” I have been a bit concerned about you lately because you are not your usual chirpy self and I was just wondering if everything is OK for you?
  • Give them your full attention when they respond and do not be condemning or judgmental. Listen with empathy to every word. Sometimes it’s all they might need is someone to release their deep and meaningful thoughts on without being told “it’s silly or get over it”
  • If they are not ready to open up don’t push it but just offer to be there for them if they ever feel like they need someone to talk to.
  • After a few days ask again how they are gong and allow them time to let it out, again don’t push, just be warm and friendly and reassure them that you are there if they need you.
  • In the meantime prepare yourself by collecting a list of resources or places they can go to seek more professional assistance.
  • If and when they do open up suggest they have a chat to say a local and competent doctor in handling depression. ( you have done your research)
  • You also know about some really worthwhile and helpful online sites which you have already checked out.

Sites such as https://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/ https://www.beyondblue.org.au https://mindspot.org.au these sites are all pertaining to Australia but there will be similar in other countries. Check them out to determine which is most appropriate for your friends situation.

If you feel they are at risk of self harm there are some direct actions you can and should take. When people start saying things like I don’t want to be here anymore or I want to end my life they are at a crisis point and need immediate help. Take them seriously.

  • Ask them outright if they have thoughts of suicide. It is a hard question to ask but it may be a trigger that they need. Most don’t really want to die and cause pain and misery to their families, but their struggles have become too much for them and they don’t see any other way out.
  • Listen to them very carefully and don’t laugh it off. They are at a critical point and if they can be open with you they will trust you. This is a privilege you need to value. Do not walk away from them at this point. Stay close.
  • Get professional help as soon as possible. You can take them to a hospital or call 000.depending on how you evaluate the intent.
  • Remain a friend, they need you more than you realize so stay in touch, follow up with their treatment and see them through the journey to health.

I should note also that sometimes you can be too close to a person to be much help. Most will be reluctant to open up to a family member but will talk to a  good friend

I have a simple formula which I find helpful in dealing with situations of deep emotional pain. It is three T’s

Talk,Time and Tears.

As much as you need as often as you need and whenever you feel the need. When I grieved the loss of my father I found it helped me a lot to deal with the pain. I talked about my wonderful father to whoever would listen. I would cry whenever my thoughts drifted his way and over time I healed. I did not forget my father but the pain of that loss dissipated and I was able to function normally again.

Just before I finish this post I would like to include a PDF with some really helpful information which you can download and keep as a reference.

Fact Sheet From Conversations Matter in dealing with Suicide


This has been a heavy page but my hope is that it may save someones life. Feel free to share any of the information on this website and please remember I am not a professional in the field, it is however my advice to seek professional help when it is needed.


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    • Sujandar Mahesan
    • January 8, 2019

    This article is exactly what I needed for today. My best friend is actually going through a rough patch in his life. And I really want to help him but it is just so awkward for me but after reading this article I now have an idea on how to approach him. This article contains a lot of tips I can use.

    Thank you so much for sharing this article with us.

      • admin
      • January 8, 2019

      I am really glad it is of some help to you. Please read the PDF I included on the page as you will find some very helpful information in that. . You have a very important role to play as a friend because most people are afraid to open up to their family members like they will to a close friend. 

    • Chris
    • January 8, 2019

    Very interesting article, and it’s really nice and positive that you’ve included a section relating to how you approach a friend who is exhibiting signs of depression. 

    I have suffered from depression in the past (in my early thirties) and I know how serious it can be, and how hard it is to let people in and simply talk to them about it. Hopefully this article will prove to be helpful to many people in contact with depression. 

      • admin
      • January 8, 2019

      Thank you Chris for your comments. It is easier for a friend than a relative to reach out to the sufferer so friends are really important in the process. How did you work through your illness?

    • Diane
    • January 8, 2019

    Hi Judy – thank you for sharing this interesting article. I think your advice applies equally well to family members as well as friends. My daughter suffers from depression and that first conversation with her was definitely the hardest, we both shed some tears. Thankfully, we have a sympathetic doctor who took her seriously, and hopefully, she is now on the road to recovery. All the best, Diane    

      • admin
      • January 8, 2019

      Diane I am so pleased it worked out for your daughter. It is a tough road and one too many are going through. You must have a very good relationship with your daughter if she was able to share her innermost thoughts with you. That is something very precious that you need to hold on to and work on. 

    • Jay
    • January 8, 2019

    Friends are really important and can save the life of their friends who might be drifting apart. When we are experiencing situations in our lives, we might want to share our burdens with someone else but might be afraid of how they would respond. Having that friend that is willing to listen to you and encourages you to share your worries is very important.

    A lot of people find it difficult to talk to their family members and tend to be at ease when talking to a friend about their problems. I have no idea why it is like that but it is just the way it is for some people. They don’t feel that sense of closure with their family members to be able to share their worries with them.

    Whenever people open up to us, let us try and listen and be of help to them without actually judging them.

      • admin
      • January 8, 2019

      Thank you Jay for commenting. Your closing comment is very pertinent and one to be highlighted.  It is so right. With modern society people tend to be so hooked up to their devices that many have lost the ability to be close and connected to their friends. We do need to learn how to listen to one another without judging. 

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