Are you familiar with the phrase, “People with depression are just feeling sorry for themselves.”?
Not only is the statement untrue, it can be a cruel thing to say!
To make a blanket statement about anyone with any kind of condition is never a good idea! Statements like that are usually born out of misunderstanding and/or misinformation. It’s truly unfortunate, because if someone is depressed and the people around them put them down for their condition, the put-downs may actually worsen their experience.
In my own experience of being depressed, beginning in childhood and continuing 38 years into adulthood, when family or friends put me down, or made fun of my condition, it felt hurtful and unkind. I felt as though the people who said things like that didn’t really care about me as a loved one (family or friend). Over time, the continued hurtful comments created distance in my relationships with them and I eventually withdrew from relating with them at all. It was my way to protect & shield myself, simply by eliminating being subjected to their judgment and ridicule.
Depression is a Real Condition
While doctors and therapists may not know the exact originating source(s) of depression, there are two general causes for the experience of depression, physical or non-physical (emotional and/or mental). In any case, someone with depression will need to DO and CHANGE something about their situation in order to improve and/or lift the depression. And lifting depression usually takes a little time, so for the people in their lives, learning how to cope with their loved ones’ depression can be extremely helpful while on the path of creating a life filled with happiness.
Listening is Key
The good news is that there are many ways to relate to someone with depression without becoming overwhelmed by their sadness, meaning you don’t have to become depressed too in order to relate to them. What someone with depression really needs is kind, loving, non-judgmental support from people they trust. Sometimes, just listening to them without giving any feedback except encouragement and kindness is all you need to do.
However, if someone with depression opens up and starts to talk to you about their problems, but you’re not comfortable with the details they are sharing, then you can sweetly and gently offer to help them find a therapist or trained professional who knows how to help them better than you do – let them know you’re uncomfortable – kindly and gently, not with any harsh comments or ridicule to push them away. Let them know you want the best for them and you’ll assist them to get whatever they need and to not be afraid to seek out the right help.
What Can You Do?
To support someone in your life with depression, you can start by developing a kind and objective perspective about their situation. Remind yourself that someone with depression is truly a very strong individual to have lived through whatever has brought them to become depressed, and because of that (even though they may not understand), they already have all the tools they need within themselves to resolve the depression. They don’t need someone to ‘fix’ them, they just need to CHANGE their health and/or their way of thinking that has caused the depression.
Healing In the Presence of Love
What someone with depression usually wants from others is to feel connected to loving people who won’t hurt them like they’ve been hurt in their past (don’t we all?). And most of all, they want to stop hurting, but don’t know how – that’s why they are stuck in their depression. They don’t know what they don’t know!
By learning how to relate to someone with depression, your relationship with them can remain in tact without pushing each other away and even assist them with their recovery.
The following lists are things not to say to people with depression and supportive statements that can be encouraging to someone with depression.
14 Things Not to Say to People With Depression
(Yes, people I loved actually said these things to me!)
• You’re just feeling sorry for yourself.
• It’s just a phase you’re going through.
• Your depression will go away on its own.
• Stay away from me, depression is contagious.
• You’re crazy.
• You’ll never be happy.
• You’re a loser.
• What’s your problem!?
• You’ve got problems.
• You don’t have any friends, no one wants to be around you.
• If you’re depressed, you’re weak.
• Only women get depressed.
• There’s something wrong with you.
• You’re worthless, lazy, and a drag to be with.
You get the idea… if it stings, don’t think it, and don’t say it!
Supportive and Encouraging Statements for Someone with Depression
• I’m here if you need someone to talk to and I’ll just listen.
• I can’t fix your situation or your past, but I’m here to listen if you need to talk.
• How can I support you? (be prepared to clarify what supporting them looks like to you, or offer to refer them & help them find the right person who can)
• I’m not comfortable with listening to the details about your situation, but maybe you’d like to consider finding a professional to talk to, I’d be happy to help you find someone you can trust.
• No matter what happened to you in your past, the person I know, who you are now, is an amazing and wonderful person. I’m so glad to know you & have you in my life.
• You are amazingly strong & courageous for what you went through. I encourage you to learn how to put your past in its place & move forward with the amazing life I know you can create – because you’re so wonderful, I just know you can do whatever you set your heart to do.
• Remind them they are the only person who can change their lives and when they are ready, you are willing to support them the best you can.
• Keep making lifestyle choices that strengthen you, not weaken you. You deserve it!
• Depression can be temporary if you want it to – just keep going toward a path of Love!