We want to help someone who is depressed. So we offer what we think is good advice to help him or her. But sometimes we make the situation worse because what we say hurts the depressed person. You might not think that what you’re saying is hurtful or realize what you’re saying is wrong . So here are four things not to say to someone who is depressed.
- “Snap out of it!” Although it’s tempting to say this to someone who is depressed, it really won’t help. Depression is an illness. It’s feelings and thoughts associated with deep pain, guilt and anxiety. While the depressed person would love to snap out of it, it’s not something that can be done at the snap of a finger or a single thought. It takes time to fight the negative thoughts of depression. Instead, offer to help the person or ask what you can do to help.
- “What are you depressed about?” We all like to think or believe that we know each other. The truth is we often see only what we are allowed to see. Even if the person is a family member or a loved one, there are secrets in the heart that only God and the person know. You might think there’s nothing to be depressed about and you may even feel impatient about why the person doesn’t see the goodness in his/her life. But the person might not feel lucky or happy. Instead, try acknowledging their pain and say “I’m sorry you’re feeling so bad.”
- “Why don’t you go for a nice walk?” Sounds like a good plan, right? Exercise is supposed to relieve depression plus a walk provides a nice distraction from negative thoughts. But depression sucks the energy out of a person. Going for a walk might seem easy to you, but to the depressed person it can feel like running two marathons right after each other! Putting the question like a demand instead of making it seem like a choice only aggravates someone who is depressed. Ask instead if he/she feels like going for a walk or maybe doing some other activity with you. That leaves the choice up to the individual plus including yourself shows that you are there to support the person. Don’t get upset if your loved one simply wants to stay home.
- “It’s all in your head.” This one is the zinger that will really upset a depressed person. No, depression isn’t all in the head. It’s a real disease that causes real physical problems for the body. High blood pressure, gastro-intestinal difficulties, heart problems including heart attacks, and troubles with the immune system are just a few of the physical symptoms of depression. While depression isn’t something you can cut out like a tumour, it can feel as painful as any form of cancer.