It’s no secret that I have depression, or as the doctor calls it “a severe case of major depressive disorder”. It is just as fun as it sounds. I’ve been in a particularly low spot for a few weeks now and it has become pretty clear that no one- friends, family, coworkers, significant others, knows how to treat you when you are suffering and no one seems to quite understands what you’re going through.
So, here is a list of things to NOT DO and NOT SAY to your loved one who is battling depression.
1. DO NOT tell them to try a home remedy or do some self-care activities.
Nothing is a quick fix in this sense. Going to a yoga class or running on the treadmill will not snap your friend out of it. A hot bath is also bullshit, as are essential oils and the like. None of these things will cure my depression and will only push me further away from seeking support or asking for help from you since you obviously do not understand or care to understand what I am going through.
2. DO NOT spout off inspirational quotes.
“You’re only as happy as you make your mind up to be.”
“Don’t let your struggle become your identity.”
“Be kind to yourself.”
Incredibly unhelpful. Once again it demonstrates your complete lack of ability to empathize with your friend and their situation.
3. DO NOT relate everything back to yourself.
“Oh, you think you’ve got it bad? Well, let me tell you…”
“I had depression once, it was awful.”
I think you’re trying to demonstrate you understand the way I feel, but this just comes off as ignoring the issue I’ve brought up to you, changing the subject, and refocusing the attention on yourself. For me personally, I just end up listening to other people’s problems and pushing mine back into the little box where they live. It’s kind of my job to listen to problems and help solve them, so why not do it for you too? Well, because you’re supposed to be the one trying to help me.
4. DO NOT tell them you’re there for them, then not be there for them.
Depression can by scary for other people. It’s confusing and you may not be sure how to help your friend feel better. But, if your friend is reaching out to you for help, it means they don’t know what to do anymore. They’re struggling and trying to keep their head above the figurative water or they will drown. The worst thing you could do is say you’ll be there for them, but then not be there when they need you. Yes, you’ve got your own life and maybe your own problems to deal with… but your friend has decided you were a safe person to confide in, someone they trusted to help them carry their little, but oh so heavy, box of depression. Someone they could use as their beacon in the storm. Now they are lost at sea, searching for your light- but it isn’t there and their boat may just sink.
5. DO NOT shrug off suicidal ideation as insignificant.
Always take suicidal ideation or thoughts of suicide as serious. This displays a disturbed thought process that should be dealt with swiftly. As the friend of someone who may be thinking of suicide, do not expect those thought to resolve themselves.
If you enjoyed this post, I will be doing a follow-up aptly titled “What to do/say when your friend has depression” in the coming weeks. Please look out for it!