Statistics tell us that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men will suffer from depression at some point in their lives. With these numbers in mind, it’s very possible that you know someone who battles depression on a daily basis. The question is – do you know what to say and what not to say to that person about their depression? Do you even acknowledge it when you speak to them? Hopefully, you can and do speak about it. Having someone to talk to about their depression can be one of the best things that can be done for your friend, but it’s important that you know what to say and what not to say. Remember, that person is constantly hearing negative things about their depression – from themselves. Don’t add to those things.
Things to say:
- I’m here for you. Be careful, though, if you say this. Remember, actions speak much louder than words so if you tell us that you are here for us, be there. Really, be there.
- It’s great to see you interested in ______ again. Acknowledge the fact that you know how hard it is for us to participate in things that we used to enjoy. Just knowing that others can recognize our attempts can be very encouraging.
- I know that this is not your fault. Acknowledging that you understand depression to be a real medical problem is important. Since a depressed person spends a lot of time in their own heads telling themselves that depression is our fault in some way, it’s nice to have others encourage us.
- Take your time. There is no alarm clock set for a specific time in which you must feel better. A depressed person is already anxious about getting better. Having someone acknowledge that depression is not something we can turn off comes as a big help. We are working as hard as we can to be better.
- I don’t know exactly what you feel, but I know it must be hard. Depression is a complex condition with genetic, biological and psychological components. Reaffirming that you may not understand the disease, but you do recognize that it is real and often difficult to control can be beneficial for both you and your loved one.
- Sometimes, Just Say Nothing. You can’t put a price on the power of being a good listener. It really is okay to say nothing, to not offer advice, and to simply sit and to listen. Since feelings of loneliness and isolation can often overwhelm someone with depression, your mere presence can help.
Things Not to say:
- Don’t you want to get better? Of course we want to get better. But, it’s not that easy. Depression is a complex and complicated illness and its recovery is never as easy as flipping a switch. The depressed person is already dealing with negative thoughts and to imply that it’s something we can control just adds to our depression.
- Get over it. There are starving children in the world. The last thing someone with depression wants or needs to hear are platitudes. My depression has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not there are starving children, or sick children, or any other terrible thing that is going on in the world. It has to do with ME and My thoughts and MY fears.
- I totally get it. After (insert some sad event here) happened, I was so depressed. There is a huge difference in grief and depression. We all grieve when something sad happens. Depression happens even when nothing sad happens. By comparing grief with depression, it makes us feel as though you really have no clue what we are dealing with.
- What are you so sad about? We have no idea. Most likely, we cannot pinpoint any event that triggered the onset of our depression. That’s the funny thing about depression – it likely happens when there is no sad event to tie it to. Depression happens when everything is going well and when there is no reason as all to be sad. Depression is much, much more than sadness.
- It’s all in your head. True, our chemical imbalance takes place in our brain, so in that respect, it is in our head. But, depression affects so much more than our heads. The health of all of our entire body is involved with true depression. Suggesting that depression is imagined is neither constructive nor accurate. Although depression can’t be “seen” from the outside, it is a real medical condition and can’t be thought or wished away.
THOUGHTS ABOUT MY THOUGHTS: I am, once again, overwhelmed with many of the responses and personal messages I have been receiving. So many of you seem to really be getting the fact that depression is truly an illness and are interested in learning more about it. I sincerely appreciate the support being offered.
TODAY’S FEELINGS BAROMETER: Not feeling well physically, so I’m kind of dragging in the mental work to be done.