10 Things You Shouldn’t Say to a Depressed Person
Around 10 percent of the British population experiences depression in any given year. If you know somebody struggling with depression, it’s hard to know what to say or how to help. However, helping somebody overcome a psychological issue isn’t easy, and as a result, many well-intentioned people say things that really don’t help in a bid to offer support. Here are 10 things you should avoid saying to depressed people, as compiled by PsychCentral writer Therese Borchard:
1: It’s all in your head, try to think positive
Forced positive thinking doesn’t “snap you out” of depression, and research actually shows that depressed or anxious people actually activate the fear portion of their brain when they try to do this.
2: Give something back to the community and get out of yourself
Although charitable activities can be valuable, if the individual is struggling with depression, he or she may find getting out of bed or practising basic self-care to be too much work, and is highly unlikely to feel like going outside and being proactively philanthropic. In fact, it’ll likely just add guilt to their already low mood.
3: Why don’t you try and do some exercise?
This is good advice – exercise genuinely does help with depression – but coming out and saying it bluntly can seem accusatory or even critical. The best way to approach the issue is to be subtle, perhaps hinting at it or casually suggesting it rather than just coming out and telling them to hit the gym.
4: Try to eat more organic food and you’ll feel better
Diet does have an impact on your mood, but telling somebody that eating some organic (and expensive) food will help them overcome depression is overly simplistic and likely misguided. Eating plenty of fruit and vegetables, organic or not, is a good thing, but the implication that diet is the reason for the depression is more likely to annoy the individual than anything.
5: Get a new job
Although their job may seem central to the problem, encouraging somebody to make a major life decision while they’re depressed is not a good move. Be rational and balanced, and let them focus on feeling better before suggesting such a big change.
6: Are you happy in your relationship?
This is very closely related to the point above: their relationship may seem like the issue, but it’s a big decision to make while you’re having mental health problems and their partner may be blamed for the issue unfairly, simply because they’re close to the person.
7: Meditation and yoga will help you feel better
Meditation and yoga can be valuable in mild or moderate depression, and may even be all that some people need to start feeling better, but in severe cases it’s far from all you need, and for some it may actually make them feel worse. There is no one-size-fits-all solution.
8: You have the power to get better
Implying that the individual has everything they need to get better and doesn’t need medication or psychological support is effectively treating mental health conditions as if they aren’t a big deal. This is completely wrong. You shouldn’t assume somebody can just overcome depression without support for the same reason you shouldn’t expect a diabetic to go without additional insulin.
9: Do you really want to feel better?
Unfortunately, we don’t have internal dials we can use to manually “adjust” our emotions, so whether or not somebody wants to get better is pretty much irrelevant. You can learn valuable techniques and overcome depression with things learned in counselling, but without help it’s absurd to think people can just “improve their mood” through sheer force of will. This may just make them feel like they’re failing.
10: Everyone has problems
No matter how you’re feeling or what you’re going through, you can rest assured that somebody has had it worse. Sadly, emotions aren’t felt relative to the problems of other people; they’re personal and not related to an objective appraisal of how bad things are for you. Pointing out that other people have it worse just makes people feel like they have no right to be so upset, and will ultimately make them feel worse.
It’s better to focus on simple but caring messages when you’re talking to somebody who’s depressed. Let him or her know that you’re there for them, that what’s happening isn’t their fault, that it’s nothing to be ashamed of, and that you’ll offer help and support however you can. Talk to them about their thoughts and feelings and be compassionate. If they’re attending counselling for the first time, offer to go with them to offer support and encourage them to keep going with treatment. Be supportive and caring, and treat the condition like the serious issue it is.