Do you know or suspect anyone of struggling with depression? Is it a family member or a close friend?
If so, if you’re not sure how to confront them without making things worse, we’ve made this video on things to avoid saying when talking to someone with depression.
Sometimes a well-intentioned remark can be misconceived as something hurtful or ignorant, so it’s very important that you know how to be careful with your words.
Here are five things you should never say to someone who’s depressed.
1: “You’re not trying hard enough”
Now some of you might feel that this one is pretty obvious, but a lot of people are actually guilty of saying this to someone with depression.
Telling them things like “you need to work harder at getting better” or “it’s because you’re not doing this or that enough” discourages them and makes them feel as if you don’t understand how hard it actually is to be depressed.
You may believe that happiness is a choice, but depression most definitely is not.
Sometimes it’s because of things that are out of a person’s control like their genetics, traumatic experiences or a chemical imbalance in their brains.
So be sure not to make them feel as if you blame them for any of it.
2 “It’s all in your head”
This is another common mistake. A lot of people make when they try to comfort someone with depression.
Though we might not see it, mental illness is just as real and serious as any physical illness – sometimes even more so because of all the stigma surrounding it.
In fact, a book titled Depression: The misunderstood illness written by Dr Leslie Lim in 2008 shows that depression is the most misunderstood mental illness of them all.
Depression is different from the occasional bout of sadness you might feel during times of hardship.
It’s not just as simple as going through the normal ups and downs of life.
People struggling with depression often find it hard to get out of bed, eat, sleep or do anything worthwhile. So you shouldn’t tell them that they’re simply overreacting or making a big deal out of nothing.
Another common misconception most people have on depression is that there is a specific cause for it.
In truth, according to a 1998 study by Ingram Miranda and Segal, anyone can have depression, no matter how popular, wealthy or accomplished.
When you tell someone with depression that they shouldn’t be depressed because they have no reason to be, you may come off as insensitive and unsympathetic.
Though your intention may be to remind them of all the blessings they have in their life and all the reasons they have to be happy, it’s not a good way of going about it. Instead, you’re making them feel like they’re ungrateful.
4 “You seem fine to me”
“You don’t seem depressed to me” or “you look pretty okay to me” may sound like a compliment to you, but to someone who’s depressed, it may seem as if you’re invalidating their feelings and struggles.
Saying this will make the person feel bad for confiding in you in the first place.
It can erode their trust in you and make them more guarded instead of more open.
5 “I know how you feel”
When you say this, you’re most likely trying to convey sympathy and understanding.
However to people who are depressed, it may feel disingenuous or offensive.
Unless you’ve ever been diagnosed with clinical depression by a licensed professional, you don’t actually know how the other person feels or what they’re going through. Don’t offer them advice that trivializes their struggles.
Depression can’t be cured with just a bit of exercise or sleep a cup of chamomile tea or some new friends and hobbies.
It takes a lot of dedication, hard work, resilience, and inner strength.