In 2013, 6.7% of U.S. adults had suffered from a major depressive episode, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. That means most of us either know someone who currently struggles with depression, or are struggling with it ourselves.
Battling depression is hard enough even with a supportive network of friends and family. Major depression can severely disrupt a person’s life, sapping them of the will (and sometimes the ability) to perform basic functions. Don’t make it harder than it needs to be. Here are some common quips to avoid:
- “I know what it’s like — I feel so sad when the weather’s cold.” Yeah, no. As much as cold weather sucks, please don’t trivialize something serious into a minor gripe about the temperature.
- “Have you tried praying/going to church?” Sure, it works for some people — but it works best when people come to it on their own, of their own free will. Don’t push.
- “You’re doing a lot better than so many other people.” On top of everything else, you really don’t need a guilt trip about how at least you have enough food to eat and a roof over your head. You know you’re fortunate, but that doesn’t invalidate your depression. You already feel bad enough, and it just isn’t helping.
- “But you have everything!” Related to number three, this one makes you feel even worse. It makes you feel like they think your feelings are illegitimate or like you’re not allowed to feel the way you do. Also, if you supposedly have “everything” now, how can you ever expect to feel better?
- “The way you feel is natural. Life isn’t easy and everyone feels sad sometimes.” There’s natural sadness and there’s depression. They’re not the same thing. By indicating that they think you’re just being dramatic or overblowing your feelings, they’re implying that it’s in your power to just “turn off” your depression, which you know just isn’t possible. You wish it was that simple, but it’s not. Depression can completely incapacitate someone, and make them feel so numb that life doesn’t seem worth living. People shouldn’t presume that they know what you’re feeling, or how serious it is.
- “I’m sure things will get better as soon as you get a boyfriend/get a new job/lose the weight you’ve been trying to get rid of.” No. Things won’t. First of all, dating with anxiety or depression is SO difficult. Also, you’re already worried that people are judging you about these things, and they’ve just confirmed that they are. Not helpful.
- “Can’t you just try to ignore it?” If you could, you would. But she can’t. Besides, avoiding your emotions will always catch up to you.
- “You’re just not fun to be around anymore.” This is the time when you need your friends and family the most, even if you try to push them away. What you really need is for them to hang in there and stay by your side. You’ll never forget it if they do.
Depression is a serious subject, and a touchy one. If people want to be supportive, they should try to do more listening than speaking, affirm that your feelings are valid, and that they’ll be there for you any way they can. Also, they should check out a helpful guide to depression warning signs and symptoms in case they’re unsure if you or a loved one need to seek further help.