Sometimes it can feel like you are walking on eggshells when trying to talk to someone who is depressed. Not knowing what to say is a common feeling, and lets face it, depression was something that was not talked about for a long time. Discussion around depression has certainly increased over the years, but there is still a lot of improvement to come. Hopefully these tips for what to say to someone who is depressed will be helpful to you and your situation. Talking to someone who is depressed will obviously not resolve their illness, but offering support can make a massive difference, especially in times of crisis.
Do You Want To Talk About It?
Being able to listen without judgement is just as important as what you say to someone with depression. They may not wish to talk or maybe they are someone who tends to say they are ok when they are not. It is important that they know they can talk to you about it when they are ready, and that you will listen to what they have to say without judging them or dismissing or belittling their symptoms as something less than what they really are. So ask them, do you want to talk about it? If they don’t, then let them know you are available to talk about it whenever they are ready. Don’t push them to talk, as it will often make them even less likely to want to talk. Just let them know they have a safe space to discuss things with you when they are ready.
Tell Them You Care
Whether the person with depression wants to talk about it or not, it is important that they know that you care. When you are battling with depression, it is not uncommon to think that nobody cares, whether it is true or not. So reiterating to them that you do care can make a big difference to how they feel. So let them know that they matter to you and you care about them and what they are going through.
What Can I Do To Help?
Simply telling someone with depression that if they need any help you are there is a nice thing to say, but it usually won’t achieve a great deal. This is because it still places the onus on the person with depression to actually ask for help and outline to you what they need. Instead of telling them you are there to help if they need it, be more direct and ask them what can I do to help? Being more specific like this is more likely to result in them actually giving you a response about what they need. You could also take it one step further by offering them specific help with something. For example, you could say I am going to come over on Saturday and cook dinner for you. Or if they don’t want the company, you could cook it at home yourself and drop it off to them on their doorstep for them to reheat and have when they like.
Remind Them Of Their Importance To You
Quite often a person with depression will feel like they are useless and they offer nothing to the world. You can combat this by reminding them that they are important to you. Don’t just tell them you are important to me, actually go into detail of why they are important to you. For example, you could say your life has been enriched by having them as a supportive friend for the last 20 years, and you don’t know how you would have gotten by without them. You can also take it one step further and refer to specific situations, such as a time when you were struggling and they were there to help and support you.
Empathize With Them
Don’t just tell them you understand, because for most people with depression they feel like nobody understands and don’t believe that anybody could. Tell them that although you aren’t experiencing what they are going through, it sounds awful and you can imagine that it must be very hard to cope with right now. You can then follow that up by offering help as mentioned above.
Encourage Them To Seek Professional Help
Friends and family are not experts when it comes to counselling someone with depression. Their GP, a psychiatrist or a psychologist are the experts, and it is great if you can encourage them to utilize their services. 5% of the worlds population suffers from depression, so it is a common illness and one that is definitely treatable. If the person with depression is reluctant to speak to a professional, you could make things easier for them by offering to drive them there and waiting for them while they have their appointment with a professional. A lot of times the healing doesn’t begin until we get professional help, so if you can get them to take that all important first step then you will have done a lot to help them in their battle against depression.
Don’t Judge Or Try To Problem Solve
Judgement is one of the worst things you can do and is the main reason why depression wasn’t discussed openly in years past. To you, their issues may seem minor or insignificant, but to them it is a major issue and one that they are struggling to cope with. Understand that although you may not have a problem dealing with something like this, they are having a problem with it and understanding is far better than judgement. Most people with depression also don’t want you to tell them how to fix their problems and will often turn away from people who have a tendency to try to do this. Leave it to the healthcare professionals to try to fix the problems. All you need to do is be supportive and understanding and encourage or help them to get professional help, as mentioned above.
Offer Them A Distraction
Often the person with depression may not wish to talk about their feelings and instead just wants to escape them for a while. So don’t keep pressing them if they don’t want to talk. Instead, offer to take them out for coffee or take them to a movie where they can just switch off and be immersed in the movie for 2 hours. Comedies are a great idea, as laughter will definitely help them, even if it is just for a little while. If they are showing resistance to talking about their feelings, change subject and talk about some happy experiences that you have shared with them, such as a holiday you took together in the past or a fun night out that you had. The important thing is not to push them in a direction that you think is best, let them guide you and offer happy and positive experiences. This will also make them more likely to feel comfortable opening up to you at a later stage.
What You Shouldn’t Say To Someone With Depression
Avoid minimizing their feelings. Saying things like we all have problems, or comparing their situation to your own and how you successfully negotiated it is of very little help to the person with depression. This does not change what they are feeling right now and saying things like this will only make them feel further broken or damaged.
You’ll feel better soon. We all hope that they will feel better soon, but saying that is dismissing what they are feeling right now. It is also the same as suggesting they just wait it out until they feel better, when instead we should be encouraging them to seek treatment rather than wait it out where it could possibly get worse.
Don’t be so negative. If the solution was that simple, then nobody would have depression. Part of being depressed is feeling very negative, and if it could just be switched off that easily then it would be. Unfortunately it can’t be switched off that easily, so try to be understanding and empathetic rather than judgemental.
You have got no reason to be depressed. Just because someone has many positive elements in their life does not make them immune to depression. Depression is not always caused by a situation, so pointing out that they have no reason to feel depressed is an unhelpful thing to say. Many highly successful people suffer from depression, and it can happen to anyone in any situation.