Talking to Someone About Their Depression: Tips to Help You Start the Conversation
Depression manifests in a number of ways.
Symptoms can include:
- Fatigue and difficulty sleeping
- Trouble concentrating
- Lack of interest in hobbies or spending time with friends and family
- Anger or irritability
- Increased use of alcohol or drugs to self-medicate
If you suspect someone close to you is suffering from depression, it’s important to reach out as soon as possible. Depression, as well as a co-occurring substance use disorder, can be treated with counseling and medication. However, people struggling with this form of mental illness are typically unable to realize that they need help.
What Not to Say to Someone with Depression
When you’re talking to someone who is suffering from depression, choose your words carefully. Remember that your friend or family is feeling emotionally vulnerable, so you should avoid any statements that could be misinterpreted. This includes:
- Snap out of it. Dealing with someone who is depressed can be challenging, but it’s important to keep in mind that it’s not about you. Your friend or family member is struggling and needs help. He or she can’t simply decide to get better just to make your life easier.
- What do you have to be depressed about? From the outside, your friend or family member’s life may not seem that bad. He or she might have a supportive partner, a successful career, and enough money in the bank to enjoy the material comforts of life. However, people with depression are fighting internal battles that you know nothing about.
- It’s all in your head. Depression is a mental illness. Don’t imply that your friend or family member is faking symptoms or exaggerating as a way to get attention.
- Everyone gets depressed sometimes. There is a major difference between having a bad day or two and being clinically depressed. By definition, depression includes symptoms that occur every day or often enough to interfere with work, school, or daily activities as well as relationships with family and friends.
- Happiness is a choice. Positive thinking works well in many situations, but depression is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. You can’t simply decide to be happy and get over it.
- No one ever said life was fair. The sentiment may be true, but it’s just not helpful in this scenario. Someone with depression doesn’t enjoy feeling miserable all the time.
Good Ways to Start the Conversation
Showing kindness without judgement is the best way to support a loved one with depression. Here are some ways you can begin the conversation:
- I’m sorry you’re having such a tough time. Acknowledging the depressed person’s struggles sets a tone of acceptance and empathy.
- I care about you. Depression lowers self-esteem, so kind words about the sufferer’s strength, resilience, sense of humor, or other positive qualities will be much appreciated.
- How can I help? Depression makes it hard to take care of everyday tasks, including things like preparing healthy meals, doing laundry, cleaning house, and taking care of children. Offers of assistance can help your loved one through this dark time.
- I’m here for you whenever you want to talk. If you’re suffering from depression, it’s easy to feel like nobody cares about your problems or that you’re bothering people when you need someone to listen. Actively stating that you’re available to talk will mean a lot to your loved one.
- Let’s go for a walk together. Exercise, socializing, and spending time outdoors are all great natural ways to fight depression.
- Have you thought about seeing a therapist? If your friend or family member hasn’t already sought treatment, the best way to help is to urge him or her to talk to a professional. You can provide contact information for treatment providers or offer to attend the first appointment for moral support. If you suspect your loved one is also struggling with substance abuse, Waypoint Recovery Center’s addiction treatment services can help address both issues.
How to Help Someone Who Is Having Suicidal Thoughts
It is important to note that there is a big difference between showing signs of depression and actively expressing suicidal thoughts. If you suspect your friend to family member is having thoughts of self-harm, this is a medical emergency. Accompany him or her to the nearest emergency room immediately. If the person is under the influence of drugs or alcohol or is being aggressive, call 911 for assistance.
You should never leave someone who is suicidal alone or in a location with easy access to firearms, knives, or potential weapons. Even if you’re not 100% positive your loved one is in danger, it’s best to err on the side of caution and seek professional help.