If someone you love suffers from depression, it may be difficult to know what to say to them; as a depression counselor, my patients often tell me that many people in their lives simply don’t understand what they’re going through. This lack of knowledge about depression can sometimes lead to awkwardness or inappropriate comments. The right thing to say to someone who is depressed is that you love and support them; unfortunately, there are way too many wrong things to say. Here are some comments you should avoid when talking to a person who suffers from depression:
“But You’re On Medication.”
Although medication, often coupled with therapy administered by a depression counselor, works well to alleviate the symptoms of depression in many people, it isn’t a miraculous cure by any means. If you know someone who is depressed and you know they’re on medication, you should also know that they will still sometimes get depressed – even deeply depressed. In addition, many medications cause side effects that affect a patient’s quality of life, like weight gain, headaches, sleep disturbances and more, which may mean that they have opted to stop taking the medications.
“You’re Being Self-Indulgent.”
When you tell someone that they’re self-involved or self-indulgent when they’re depressed, you’re implying that their condition isn’t a real one. You should know that no one chooses to be depressed and when someone you care about can’t participate in an activity or reaches out for support, it’s incumbent upon you to understand. The best way to do that is to talk about their depression with them so that you know more about it.
“Life Can’t Be That Bad.”
Indeed life can be that bad for some people. If you know someone who is depressed but you don’t know their story, don’t assume that their lives have been as bump-free as yours. There are many reasons people develop depression, including having a family history of the condition or suffering from some childhood or adult trauma. Instead of implying that they are overreacting to life’s “little” setbacks, encourage them when they are able to accomplish something that you might take for granted, like going to work or school when they’re down. And remember that depressed people don’t absorb positivity the same way as non-depressed people.
While this can seem like a harmless and supportive thing to say, it may actually come off as dismissive to someone who is depressed. Unless you have been diagnosed with depression and you have the same symptoms and history as the person you’re talking to, you really can’t understand. Instead of saying that you understand, work hard to really understand. Talk to them about their depression or make sure they know they can talk to you. You can also check in on them regularly and let them know that you are available to help them with tasks that are difficult for them.
If you or someone you know suffers from depression, it’s important to get help. For a depression counselor, call Insight Child & Family Counseling at (972) 426-9500 or visit www.ldscounselordfw.com to schedule an appointment.