Mental illness is not the result of failure, weakness, or a lack of willpower. Mental illness can sometimes be hereditary, and it can also result from trauma, stress, and chemical imbalances in the body and brain. Depression affects nearly seven percent of Americans and 300 million people worldwide.
Depression can be a perplexing condition for those who suffer from it as well as for the people who care about them. It is very often difficult for people who don’t experience depression to really understand, which is why many well-intended family and friends sometimes say the wrong thing. Most of us know someone who struggles with depression. It’s hard, sometimes, to know what to say. Stigmatizing statements, even unintended, contribute to a cycle of shame and fear that can perpetuate depression. Words matter. These conversations can be difficult, and sometimes awkward.
Here are some examples of what not to say to someone with depression.
- Try yoga or meditation.
- You need to exercise more.
- It’s all in your head.
- There’s power in positive thinking.
- No one ever said life was fair.
- You’re bringing me down.
- Cheer up.
- A lot of people have it worse than you.
- Get over it.
- Stop talking crazy.
- Come on, things aren’t that bad.
- Stop over-thinking everything.
- Lighten up.
- Happiness is a choice.
- Have a drink and forget about it.
- You’re being crazy.
- Don’t be such a victim.
- Everything will be okay.
- Grow up.
- You think you’ve got problems?
- Everyone gets blue sometimes.
- Let me see that smile!
- What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.
- Believe me, I know just how you feel.
No one expects a friend or loved one with heart disease or diabetes to simply decide to get over their illness, but that is how the above remarks can be interpreted. People with depression often feel guilty or ashamed about the way they’re feeling. What we say and do to support those we love can greatly impact our relationships and, unfortunately, can do some harm rather than good. So, what should we say, then?
Here are some things that you can say to someone with depression.
Sometimes, simple words of support are best.
- I care about you.
- I love you.
- I’m sorry you’re in so much pain.
- You’re not alone in this.
- I’m glad you’re here.
- Do you want a hug?
- I’m not going to leave you.
- Want to do something together?
- I can’t really understand what you’re feeling, but I can offer my compassion.
- If you feel overwhelmed, please tell me.
- Would you like to talk?
- You’re never a burden.
- You are important to me.
- There’s nothing shameful about feeling depressed.
- If you don’t know what to do, let’s talk to someone who does.
- I know this is really hard. I’m proud of you for getting help.
Sometimes the best thing to say is nothing at all. If your loved one wants to talk, listen. The more you listen, the more you’ll learn about your loved one’s circumstances and feelings. Let your compassion and patience show them that you care. It is important that your words come from an authentic place. If they are willing to talk with a professional about their depression, help them find the right person to talk with. Take them to their appointment. Remember that treatment and recovery take time. You can make a positive impact on the one you love by being patient and kind, and by listening.
If you or a loved one are in need of treatment for depression, please give us a call. We are here to help.