Depression is one of the most common mental illnesses. So it’s likely that you’ve encountered a situation where you wanted to console someone dealing with depression. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to find the right words to say to someone depressed. As long as it comes from a place of compassion and acceptance, your depressed friend, co-worker, or family member will appreciate you.
When talking to a person with depression, knowing how to support them through a conversation is extremely helpful and your words can remind them they aren’t alone.
If you support your friend, you might even help relieve their depression. In fact, research has shown that high-quality social connections help reduce depression symptoms.
What are the ways to approach someone depressed?
When approaching a person who is depressed, you should make sure you aren’t accusing them, blaming them, or making light of what they are feeling.
You can comfort someone who is unhappy by offering a helping hand and a shoulder to cry on. Social support has been proven to provide a depressed person with a protective factor. It can also help with anxiety.
According to Clinical Hypnotherapist and Relationship Coach Keya Murthy, you should let a depressed person know that you are thinking of them. You should also let them know when you are free to catch up with what’s going on and what excites them.
“Mention a time in the past when both of you were in happier places and times were good. Mention those memories in a cheerful way and not with despondence. Good memories of the past lift people up,” Murthy explains. “Also, talk of your plans in which you would love to include them. This makes them feel you care and that they belong.”
1. Ask them if they want to talk.
Reaching out to just talk to them is the first step. Let them choose if they are ready to talk to you. And if they do, you need to be there to comfort and understand them.
2. Listen without interrupting.
Listening to a depressed person can help make their mental and emotional pain more bearable. They can talk to you knowing you’re a friend who is there to listen, learn, and help. And that’s different than talking to a doctor or therapist.
3. Ask if you can help.
Friends can actually help to ease the burden of depression. For example, if you have a friend dealing with depression, ask them if they need any help with anything like tidying up their room or cooking dinner. Whatever it is you think they might need help with, don’t hesitate to ask.
Instead of asking, “Is there anything I can do?” ask using concrete statements like, “Could I come over and help with dinner?” or “Could I come over and do laundry for you?
Suggest first and then listen. If they have something else in mind, be there to help them out.
What to say to someone who is struggling with depression?
1. Ask them how they are managing their depression.
By asking depressed people how they are managing and dealing with their depression, you can get a sense of where you think they are in terms of needing professional help. You can only do so much before even you find it hard to help them.
Tell someone who is sad that depression is a medical illness. It’s not a flaw or weakness that they have brought upon themselves. Plus, remind them that asking for help can actually be a sign of strength.
If they end up getting treatment or medication and if you’ve noticed any improvements, let them know so they can realize that it’s working. By doing this, you can motivate them and let them know that they are getting better.
2. Tell them you understand (but only if you actually do).
When talking to your depressed friend, let them know if you’ve also dealt with symptoms of depression. That way, they know you can relate and empathize. Also, let them know how you were able to handle those problems and stressors.
Getting advice from a trusted and loving friend is sometimes more meaningful than advice from a therapist or doctor.
3. Emphasize hope and encourage talking with a doctor.
If you’re wondering what to say to someone who is depressed, you should emphasize that there are lots of other people with depression who suffer from the same symptoms. Essentially, tell them they aren’t alone.
By emphasizing hope, you can reassure them that there is light at the end of the tunnel; all they need is a helping hand. Remind them that the helping hand they might be seeking isn’t only yours. It’s also through the help of a medical professional and their medical advice.
Research has proven that depression treatments are a very important part of recovering from depression. So, help them feel less ashamed and more empowered to ask for help from a doctor. Yoy can also tell them they’re very brave for taking the next step to seek professional help.
What should you not say to someone depressed?
1. “Everyone gets depressed.”
Never say this to a depressed person or friend because it can sound very dismissive. It makes them feel like you don’t even acknowledge their serious mental illness that affects their everyday life. After all, not everyone is depressed or gets depressed.
2. “Hang in there. It’ll pass.”
This is also another terrible thing to say, as depression isn’t like a regular sickness that will pass in a couple of weeks. It’s all mental, and, in serious cases, it will take treatment to be able to recover and manage it successfully.
Chances are they’ve been feeling bad for a while. And if they are just now asking for help, it’s because their depression hasn’t gotten better, only worse.
3. “Don’t think any negative but only positive thoughts.”
If only depression was this simple. You simply cannot and must not tell a depressed person this because it’s extremely rude and very cruel. This statement is suggesting that depression is simply a choice and that you can manifest it to go away.
What are suicide warning signs to watch for?
There are three different categories of suicide warning signs that you need to look out for. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, those signs are talk, behavior, and mood.
When listening to your depressed friend, it’s important to look for suicidal ideations in certain things they might say.
Suicidal ideations are suicidal thoughts or ideas that are mentioned in the speech, such as talking about hopelessness or having no reason to go on living with depression. It also means exhibiting reckless and risky behavior that could get them killed. They may also avoid all social interactions with people.
When depressed people feel suicidal, they might express that feeling through the following behaviors, which are also indicators of suicide risk.
These include increased use or misuse of substances, searching for methods to kill themselves, withdrawing from all activities with people, visiting people or calling to say goodbye, giving away their possessions, and increased aggression, fatigue, and sleep.
Depression is often the most popular condition linked to suicide.
Increased major depressive episodes, anxiety, and irritability are all moods associated with high suicide risk. A person who is considering suicide may present one or more of these moods.
According to Murthy, some other obvious signs of suicide are losing or gaining weight, dark rings under their eyes, and not brushing their teeth or hair. Basically, their attention to their physical health is almost non-existent or in the negative. If their body has bruises, cuts, or any form of lacerations, that is definitely a cry for help.
What should someone do if they see the person they are trying to help exhibit these signs?
We can all help to prevent suicide if we recognize the signs. So if you see any of these signs, according to Murthy, you should be showing up in their space and hanging out with them.
“Treat them to something nice that they used to enjoy, whether it is a good meal, movie, or time together — indoors or outdoors. Go for a pleasant stroll or a rigorous hike. Basically, whatever the person likes, do it,” she explains. “A person becomes unhappy because they feel they are alone and that the world is weighing in on their shoulder. Let them lean in on you to make them believe that you care.”
If you don’t know how to help someone, then you can call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, which offers a toolkit for supporting people who you might think are at risk of suicide.
If you or someone you know is dealing with depression, call SAMHSA’s National Helpline (1-800-662-4357) for free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information. For free and confidential emotional support, call 800-273-TALK no matter what problems or type of stress you’re dealing with.
Originally written by Megan Hatch on YourTango
Featured image via Naomi August on Unsplash