With so many people living with depression in the United States, it is highly likely that you know at least one of them. Unfortunately, many of the statements people hear from well-meaning friends and family members don't feel supportive. You may want to avoid these four common sentences for best results, exchanging them for more positive counterparts.
Don't say: "Maybe you should just think more about the positive."
Instead, say: "It can be really hard to see the positive in life when you feel so bad. Would it help to talk about it?"
Few people actually want to dwell on negative thoughts. Unfortunately, depression magnifies the negative aspects of life and can make it seem impossible to see even the biggest silver lining. Letting a loved one tell you what's wrong helps relieve the tension of holding the pain inside.
Don't say: "But you have such a good life. You don't have anything to be sad about."
Instead, say: "I know I don't understand exactly what you are going through, but I do want to be here for you. How can I help?"
Depression does not discriminate. Even the most successful people in the world can struggle with depressive episodes. Simply because somebody's life looks fantastic from the outside does not mean that this person is not depressed. Also, depression is not always triggered by some sort of negative experience. In truth there are a lot more factors at play. Factors such as genetics, brain chemistry, past trauma, and medical issues. The old adage of not judging a book by its cover applies here.
Don't say: "At least you aren't dealing with _____________"
Instead, say: "You are worthy of good things. I value who you are and admire your strength. If it helps, I can just sit here with you for a while."
Everybody knows that there are people without food in the refrigerator or a roof over their heads. People with depression understand that they may not have the worst life in the world, and that often worsens the depression by making people feel ungrateful and unworthy. Minimizing someone's struggles is not helpful. Remember the last time you felt awful about something? How would you have felt if someone reminded you at the time that whatever that something was, it wasn't the WORST thing. Pretty crappy.
Don't say: "If you would just try you would probably feel better."
Instead, say: "I know this is hard. How about I help you find a counselor who may be able to help?"
Most people with depression have wished that they could just snap out of it. Depression is an illness. If you had a toothache you would not simply try to think positive thoughts. You would treat the toothache. Showing that you care can provide reassurance your loved one needs.
Are you looking for ways to be more supportive to a loved one with depression? You can start by learning more about depression.
If you would like support for yourself or a loved one, please call me to schedule an appointment.