This is such an important issue to tackle because people suffering from depression/anxiety often feel as if they are alone. Asking someone who is depressed how they are doing can be a gift to them as it shows them they matter to other people. When depressed/anxious our views of the world are internal, global and stable, meaning we think everything is terrible, our fault, and unchanging. Therefore, providing friends with small examples of the opposite can help a lot.
For example, when a friend complains about an experience where they think they failed, it’s helpful to say something along the lines of: “It is hard to get it right every time. I remember that time you just nailed it when we were stuck in that airport in Madrid and handled situation like a pro.” By giving examples of successes you help your friend recall and feel what it was like to be in a different state of mind than they are in right now. While you can never be a therapist to your friend, this intervention can help them shift their perspective, which is the core of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.
It is important to note that if you are worried that a friend might be in danger of hurting themselves, it’s imperative to ask questions and not ignore their feelings. Many people worry that talking about suicide makes someone more likely to think of it, but research does not support this claim. If you speak with them and they are not willing to get help then speak with someone else in their life to help come up with a safety plan.