What you say to someone battling with depression can have a huge impact in the course of his recovery. Know how to choose the right words and help someone with depression.
The World Health Organization recognizes depression as a major public health problem. In 2017, the World Health Day focused on depression, being the leading cause of ill health and disability worldwide. It is estimated that over 300 million people are living with it.
In the same year, the WHO launched a global campaign dubbed as “Depression: Let’s Talk” which was aimed to get people to talk about this prevalent mental health issue and increase awareness on it. According to the WHO, by understanding depression more deeply, people will be more able to help its sufferers. The WHO recognizes that all of us can do something to help depressed persons. In fact, what we say to people with depressioncan have a lasting impact in their condition. So, it is very important that we know what things to say and what not to say to them.
Because of the complexity of depression, people living with someone with depression may feel like walking a tightrope. You always have to consider how you will relate to them. It seems like you need to carefully think of what to say to someone with depression so as not to aggravate their condition. Some may have experienced trying to reach out to them but end up with negative consequences. Others may think that depressed persons are not receptive to their advice or words. Other times, you may have all the right intentions but only end up saying the wrong thing.
Dealing with a depressed person can be confusing, distressing, and a whole lot frustrating. It’s actually a hallmark of depression. It is an isolating disorder. It keeps the sufferers emotionally detached to everything even their loved ones thus putting a strain on your relationships and thereby making it difficult to reach out to them. It is crucial that you know what to say to someone who has depressionso they can open up to you and be able to provide them with emotional support.
Words that should not be said to a depressed person can fall into two categories: those that dismiss and those that stigmatize the condition.
A lot of people dismiss depression (either intentionally or unintentionally) as simply a phase of life that will soon pass. You could hear people drop clichés and platitudes about depression as if they fully understand it or have gone through the same harrowing experience. Although some thoughts may be helpful, the context of these words often lessens their intended benefits.
It’s not uncommon to hear people speak inappropriate and insensitive comments to people with depression. The American Psychiatric Association notes that stigma and discrimination against mental illnesses are still very prevalent. These degrading words don’t help and can even worsen the condition as it fosters fear and shame. As a result, the person retreats to isolation thereby making them inaccessible to help and support.
Here let’s take a look some of the worst things to say to someone with depression.
While these words may seem reassuring, they may not be the best words to tell a person struggling with depression. Depression is a complex condition that doesn’t resolve by itself and requires medical treatment. Even if someone is just in a depressed state and without clinical depression, it is best to stay safe. Instead of dismissing the condition, encourage them to seek professional help. You can also help them better understand their mental health by accessing the right resources available online.
Like other illnesses, depression has fluctuations that involve extreme emotions. These words may seem to belittle their experience, as such, making them feel criticized and attacked. It will not help and can even worsen the problem. Do not force your perspective of the situation to them. Acknowledge that there is a problem and that you are there to help them ready to listen to them.
Statements that tend to blame them for their conditionare what you should never to say to someone with depression. Like other mental illnesses, depression is caused by multifarious factors that include chemical imbalances in the brain, social factors and genetic predisposition. It is not their fault so they should not be blamed for it. Instead, you should recognize their struggle and let them know you are there ready to offer support.
For a person battling with depression, a change in thought doesn’t come easily (in fact, even impossible.) Because of the electrical and chemical disturbances in the brain, a depressed person is often unable to dwell on positive feelings and thoughts. Simply telling them to think positive can be downright insulting. It’s like telling a person with hypertension to think happy thoughts, instead of giving his medicines. Alternatively, you can acknowledge how brave the person is in dealing with all the negativity in his mind and living without the ability to think positive.
Surely all of us have our own personal struggles but equating your personal circumstances to someone with depression is completely insensitive. It belittles the condition into a mere fleeting experience. And that’s not the case with a depressed person. As an alternative, you can ask him how you can help him as he overcomes his problems. You can spend some time with him every day or every week just to listen to his fears and problems.
Now that we know what statements to avoid when talking to people with depression, let’s check out some things to say to someone with depressionto help them open up or to show our support.
People with depression need lots of reassurance. The condition can be overwhelming and knowing that they have support persons can go a long way as they overcome their condition. Show you are there for them when they needed someone to talk to. Offer them ride when they get to the doctor or suggest walking together. Actions and words that show you care are crucial to their recovery.
In contrast to statement no. 3 above, this line helps your loved one realize that depression is a disease and is not their fault. Letting them know that you acknowledge their condition and lightens the emotional burden that they may be going through.
What you say to people with depression should be geared towards building trust and encouraging them to open up. By telling them that your conversations remain private between the two of you builds trust. Do not share with other what they tell you unless with their permission.
Don’t assume what kind of help a depressed person needs. For instance, you might think that you are helping him by doing household chores, but he might actually prefer doing it by alone to pass time. Encourage them to tell you what help they prefer instead of volunteering help. You should also be prepared to adjust the support you give as their needs may change through the course of their recovery. Showing that you are open to help with their everyday needs can go a long way.
It is often difficult to see positive changes in a depressed person. Usually, these improvements are gradual and very minor. Honestly, point out any good observations which can signify improvements. For instance, you can talk about out how pretty they look with their new dress or how nicely they have groomed. At the same time, validate these changes by asking them how they feel or if it is congruent to what they show outwardly. This way, you encourage hope and show to them that they are moving towards recovery. It also gives them reassurance that their condition is treatable.
Finally, when dealing with someone battling with depression, we need to be ready with an open heart and an open mind. Let’s be ready to accept them without judgment or expectation. Through our words, we can show to them that they are not alone in their struggle with depression.
The words we say to a person with depression matters so much. It can either help them recover faster or make them suffer forever. But we should also not forget to match our words with actions. Empty words are not what they need. It’s easy to talk politely but these words won’t matter unless you show them through action.