by Therese J Brochard
I’m always on the lookout for articles that touch on ways to communicate to a friend or family member who is depressed. It’s a delicate issue and one that deserves some serious attention. What follows is what you should, and should not say to a loved one struggling with depression. — Bryan
1. Snap out of it!
Your loved one hasn’t left the house in what seems like days. Should you tell him to pull himself up by his bootstraps and just snap out of it?
Don’t say it.
You may be tempted to tell someone who’s depressed to stop moping around and just shake it off. But depression is not something patients can turn on and off, and they’re not able to respond to such pleas. Instead, tell your loved one that you’re available to help them in any way you can.
2. What do you have to be depressed about?
In a world full of wars, hunger, poverty, abuse, and other ills, you may feel impatient when someone you love feels depressed. So do you remind him how lucky he is?
Don’t say it.
You can’t argue someone out of feeling depressed, but you can help by acknowledging that you’re aware of his pain. Try saying something like “I’m sorry that you’re feeling so bad.”
3. Why don’t you go for a nice walk?
Exercise is a known way to lift your mood. Is it a good idea to suggest that your loved one with depression go out and enjoy some fresh air and activity?
Say it — but with a caveat.
By definition, depression keeps you from wanting to engage in everyday activities. But you can show your support by offering to take a walk, go to a movie, or do some other activity with your loved one. How about: “I know you don’t feel like going out, but let’s go together.”
4. It’s all in your head.
Some people believe that depression is an imaginary disease and that it’s possible to think yourself into feeling depressed and down. Should you tell your loved one that depression is just a state of mind — and if she really wanted to, she could lift her mood with positive thoughts?
Don’t say it.
Suggesting that depression is imagined is neither constructive nor accurate. Although depression can’t be “seen” from the outside, it is a real medical condition and can’t be thought or wished away. Try saying instead: “I know that you have a real illness that’s causing you to feel this way.”
5. Seeing a therapist is probably a good idea.
You think your loved one could benefit from talking to a mental health professional. Should you say so?
Say it. And say it again.
Reinforcing the benefits of treatment is important. Encourage the idea of getting professional help if that step hasn’t yet been taken. This is especially important if your loved one has withdrawn so much that she is not saying anything. Try telling her, “You will get better with the right help.” Suggest alternatives if you don’t see any improvement from the initial treatment in about six to eight weeks.
For other suggestions on what to say and what not to say, check out Everyday Health’s post.
Also, see Psych Central’s our list of the worst things to say to someone who’s depressed.