Depression is real and depression is crippling. Coming from someone who has struggled with long-term depression since an early age, I would like to address in this article 10 things well intentioned people “should say“ to a person suffering from depression.
People who have not truly experienced long-term depression cannot possibly understand how completely draining it is. It is literally a huge chore just to get out of bed, brush your teeth, wash clothes, bathe, smile, or simply function at anything that a non-depressed person is able to do without even thinking about it. Everything in a depressed person’s life is magnified and overwhelming. They feel guilty, because they can’t just “snap out of it.” They want more than anything to live a normal life, full of energy and on the go like everyone else, but unfortunately visualizing a solution and getting relief feels and seems insurmountable to someone experiencing long-term depression.
10 Things you “should” say to someone who is depressed:
1.) If you say “I’m here for you,” the depressed person will know you care and that you are not pretending you understand how they feel.
2.) Sometimes saying “nothing” is best. A hug or a smile is worth a thousand words.
3.) “You are important to me” can be beneficial for a depressed person to hear, unless you’re not sincere. A depressed person is keen on detecting people whom they feel are patronizing them and will withdraw if detected.
4.) Saying “You are not going crazy” may help a depressed person if you can tell they think they are in fact going crazy, or make comments such as “everybody thinks I’m crazy.” Simply hearing that they’re not “going crazy” can allay their fears of being viewed in this light.
5.) Offer some “hope” to a depressed person by expressing your willingness to remain their friend and to see them through their illness, no matter what. Depressed people are generally afraid of losing friends and family as a result of their illness. Depression is an illness and there is no fast cure, so knowing you plan to stick around will help relieve some of the pressure a depressed person feels to put on a façade. Having to “pretend” you’re happy when you’re not takes a lot of energy and that energy could be better spent trying to find a solution.
6.) “I’ll try to understand,” or “I’d like to better understand how you’re feeling,” will help a depressed person know you empathize with them even though you don’t truly understand. These statements come across to the depressed person as “non-judgmental,” which is soothing to them.
7.) “I can’t really understand, but tell me how you are feeling,” is a comforting statement to the depressed person. Again, this is a non-judgmental statement which will be received well by most people who are experiencing depression. Just to know that you don’t pretend to understand and you’re not “trivializing” their feelings will mean a lot.
8.) “I will pray for you,” is comforting to hear and not offensive, if the depressed person believes in God or some other “higher” power.
9.) “If you need to talk, let me know,” is a statement that a depressed person will appreciate. Many times a depressed person doesn’t want to or doesn’t have the energy to talk, but will appreciate knowing you are “willing” to talk should they want to.
10.) “Do you want some time alone to rest and think?” If the depressed person is constantly badgered to “perform” or “be there for other people,” they feel unloved and eventually angry at the person making the demands. A depressed mother or father, for instance may need time to be alone at times and not be burdened with the needs of others. They need some “time out.” Take over some of the daily responsibilities from a depressed spouse, so they won’t feel pressured or become a boiling pot waiting to explode.
If you know someone who is depressed and who is not under a doctor’s care, suggest that they see a doctor and offer to go with them. It will depend on the person whether or not they will follow your advice or be receptive to your help, but always try to get them to seek help. Long-term depression needs to be treated and will not go away by itself.