Things You Should Not Say When Your Friend Is Depressed?

what not to say to a depressed person

“If you know someone who’s depressed, please resolve never to ask them why. Depression isn’t a straightforward response to a bad situation; depression just is, like the weather.

Try to understand the blackness, lethargy, hopelessness, and loneliness they’re going through. Be there for them when they come through the other side. It’s hard to be a friend to someone who’s depressed, but it is one of the kindest, noblest, and best things you will ever do.” -Stephen Fry We often end up offering an advice or wisdom to someone whom we care about who is depressed. The intentions would be genuine but however, but while consoling them we would pass out some words which could trigger them as we are not well versed with what actually Depression is. Although the phrases you use to express your own feelings may appear clear and concise to you, someone with depression who receives these comments may feel attacked, misunderstood, or deeply hurt.

Being human, we all have this tendency of offering advice, despite ignoring the fact that it could minimize our feelings.

Depression is a Mental Health condition that is also known as ‘major depressive disorder or clinical depression’. It is common and a serious mood disorder. Those who suffer from depression can experience emotional and physical symptoms. In emotional symptoms, they can often experience persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness and lose interest in activities they once enjoyed. They can experience physical symptoms like fatigue, chronic pain, loss of appetite, loss of sleep, constant tiredness, lack of attention, or digestive issues.

According to DSM V, to be diagnosed with depression the symptoms must be present for at least two weeks (DSM – V).

There are certain things that should not be said to somebody who’s depressed. Even while we are consoling them we should be mindful of our words.

Here are some habits and comments to avoid when speaking to someone with depression:

  • Don’t tell them to try harder -
  • It is because they’ve been already giving their best and our statement can demoralize them and make them feel hopeless.

  • Don’t oversimplify things -
  • Oversimplifying can make them feel that they are not worthy enough of analyzing situations around them.

  • Don’t express disbelief -
  • It's common for people with depression to try very hard to 'put on a good and happy face' and cover up how they really feel from others. Comment such as 'You don't appear depressed' or 'You don't seem sad' coming from us can have a negative impact on individuals who are struggling with depression. Such remarks may make them feel embarrassed, confused, guilty, ashamed, or fearful of the consequences of disclosing their condition to others. These thoughts can become very intense. They may feel that what if my close ones would stop loving me and what if they feel that I’ll not be able to work the way I used to.

  • Don’t dismiss their pain -
  • Depressed people already lack the internal resources to cope with their feelings or situations that create stress for them. Comments like ‘It can’t be that bad, It could be worse or You think you have it bad’ should be avoided. Depression doesn't need a justification. The feelings that they experience are highly personal. It's important to remember that no matter how much you care about someone and want to assist them, you can never truly understand what it feels like to be in their shoes.

  • Don’t blame them for what they’ve been feeling -
  • We should avoid saying things like, ‘It’s all in your head, It’s your fault, You’re imagining things, etc.’ Furthermore, depression is not in someone’s head but it’s also physically available in their body. Also, depression is not a condition someone chooses to have.

  • Don’t be apathetic to them -
  • When someone is depressed they have this constant feeling of shame and guilt within, they might even feel that they are a burden in others’ lives and these feelings can have adverse consequences or effects like self-harm or suicidal tendencies.

  • Don’t pass comments -
  • Passing the comments can cause guilt or shame within them. Someday the ones who are depressed are preoccupied with their thoughts but that doesn’t make them selfish. We should avoid passing comments like; ‘You only think about yourself, Other people have problems too, etc.’ These comments would just fuel shame in them. In reality, people who experience depression do care for others.

  • Don’t ignore them -
  • We should create an atmosphere of learning and receiving so that they don’t feel that they are ignored. We should console in a healthy atmosphere.

  • Avoid platitudes -
  • Offering platitudes, clichés, or vague statements doesn't provide much hope or strength to someone in need. Thus, it's best to avoid saying things like 'This too shall pass,' 'Let it go,' or 'You'll get over it.' Individuals who are experiencing depression may find it challenging to envision the future because they are struggling with the present. For those who have faced loss or trauma, it can be especially difficult to move on from the past and let go of painful memories.

    Someday depressed persons need a supportive environment where they are not felt inferior. We can express empathy towards them or we can show our care in non-verbal ways as well. We can provide a conducive environment where they are provided positive affirmations that mental health is important. The importance of mental health professionals should be conveyed. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 is available for support and assistance from trained counselors. The Mental Health Care Act 2017 was passed on April 2017 in order to protect, promote and fulfill the rights of people during the delivery of mental health care services. Mental health acceptance is rising among individuals and we should treat our mental health as equal to our physical health.

Image credits: Freepik

Aarchi Vasani
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