Depression is a mental illness which can often be misunderstood by people who have never experienced it themselves and with good intentions at heart, you may say things which may only add to the problem.
After having postpartum psychosis after the birth of my son, I then went through a stage of depression. Although luckily this only lasted around 3 month, I now have the insight and understanding of depression and what it really feels like.
I will hold my hands up and say that before my depression I would say or think most of the things below about depression as I never truly understood what it was or how it felt.
I have put together some things of what NOT to say to someone you know who is suffering with depression :
Have a bath with candles, it makes me feel better. Nowadays if I have had a tough day at work, or my son has been bouncing off of the walls from 7am, the first thing I will do in the evening is run a steaming hot bubble bath, light some candles and shut the world out of the bathroom and all is better (for 5 minutes until Kayden bursts in needing the toilet). However when I had depression I didn’t feel stressed, I didn’t feel low, I didn’t feel like I needed time out, I didn’t feel like I needed to relax, I didn’t feel anything. The biggest bath in the world with a million candles could not have altered my mood.
You have nothing to be sad about, you have everything. They may have the most loving family, closest friend, biggest house, best job and lots of money. Non of that will help get rid of a mental illness. It can’t be helped, they can’t decide if they have it or not.
You don’t look depressed. People with depression can come across as fine, putting on a fake smile and going through the motions of everyday life. This does not mean that they are not falling apart inside. Just because someone has actually managed to find the energy and motivation to get dressed and force themselves to leave the house does not mean their OK.
Your just having a bad day. Depression is a long-term mental illness. Yes they may be having a bad day (a really bad day) in the middle of slightly better days. But by saying “your just having a bad day” sounds like they will be skipping through meadows, picking daisies tomorrow. They won’t. Tomorrow will more than likely be another bad day, perhaps not as bad, but still bad.
Snap out of it. Treating someone like they are at fault or that they are able to control their depression by flicking a switch will make them feel guilty for not being a good friend or for bringing down the mood. This could lead to them isolating themselves from people even more meaning they are less likely to get well.
Usually the above things are said with love and care but can be hard for the person with depression to see this.
Here are a few things you could say instead:
- It’s not your fault
- Can I help in any way?
- I’m here for you
- Here is my number, text or call if you want to talk.
- Take as long as you need
- I love you
- Just say if you need space, I understand
- Your not alone
- I care
- You are strong and can get through this
Sometimes though you don’t have to say anything at all, just being there is enough, and a cuppa always helps 😉