Your friend, who is suffering from depression, needs you. What should you tell them in such moments, and what should you not? No matter how well-intended they are, your words can become emotional weapons, whether you like it or not.
“The worst part of depression is that it narrows the field of vision into a very small tube so they can’t see the options. A lot of [the goal of helping] is giving people a hope that things will get better”, says Dr. Adam Kaplin, an associate professor in the departments of psychiatry and neurology at Johns Hopkins University, for Huffington Post.
What you shouldn’t tell a person who is suffering from depression
Words that can cause the depressed person to feel that “what they’re dealing with is because of a lack of coping skills, personal weakness or a character flaw” should be avoided, the expert points out.
When you wish to alleviate other people’s suffering, your words can turn into a double-edged sword. On the one hand, you can give others hope. On the other hand, however, you can generate an even greater suffering. Here are a few statements you should avoid when addressing someone suffering from depression.
“I know/understand what you’re going through.”
You might have gone through a similar episode to what the person you are trying to comfort is going through, and this is how you’re trying to show empathy. However, each of us experiences his own dramatic situation in a personal and different way. Depression forms vary from one person to the other, Dr. Kaplin says.
“This could have been worse.”/”There are people who are going through a more difficult situation than you are.”
Each of us has our own problems, and some are more difficult than others. However, such a line addressed to a person suffering from depression can make her feel “weak and pathetic… like she has no right to feel the way she’s feeling”, says writer Therese J. Borchard, author of several books on mental health. The fact that there are people in the world who are faced with more serious situations does not diminish the depth or authenticity of the individual’s own pain.
“Think positively! It’s all in your mind.”
Studies have shown that when a person who is suffering from a strong form of depression forces herself to think positive, the effect at the level of the brain is the exact opposite, Borchard says. This action does nothing but increase activity in the brain areas associated with fear.
“Life is unfair for everyone.”
Such an answer carries no empathy towards the suffering person. It’s just a reminder of the immense dimensions of pain, which can fuel the state of depression even more. A more suitable approach would focus on the way in which problems can be solved successfully, according to Health Central.
What you could say to a person suffering from depression
Here are a few examples of comforting words which might provide the other person with the necessary dose of compassion and soothing they need in the tough moments they are going through:
“I am here for you.”/“You know you can count on me no matter what.”
Because it affects everyone in a different way, this state can contribute to the increase of feelings of loneliness and isolation, says Dr. John Grohol for Psych Central. The fact that you offer the certainty that you will stand with them in terrible times, reminds them of the fact that they are loved and supported and that they are not alone in the fight against depression and negative events in their lives.
“I trust you!”
This is a line which can help others reclaim the part of their self-esteem that depression has stolen. You thus convey the message that you are certain that they have what it takes to overcome the moment, Dr. Grohol says.
“Suffering is not permanent; there will come a day when you’ll smile again. Look forward to that moment.”
It’s not a secret that depression and suffering narrow our perceptions and cause us to believe that emotional pain will remain with us forever. This is why it’s important to remind others that their emotional disorders will go away in time.