What to NOT SAY To A Depressed Person!
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People with depression tend to isolate themselves. This is a natural part of the illness, and unfortunately the stigma associated with mental illness makes that withdrawal even more likely. That is why it’s incredibly important to be careful not to use stigmatizing language when approaching or talking to a depressed person. Stigma makes it difficult for the individual to ask for help and lowers their self esteem, which further worsens their condition. The best way to help your friend or loved one is to become informed about the stigma of depression and the types of language to avoid when talking with a person with depression.
Stigma results from a widespread lack of understanding about what depression is and how it affects a person. Being informed will go a long way towards making your life with a depressed person easier and put you in the best position to help them during a very hard time in their life. Fighting the stigma is an important step in the process of recovery.
First and foremost, it’s important to understand that a depressed person has an illness. It is an illness just like any other only it happens to occur in the mind (the brain). That does not mean that the person is somehow weak or at fault in any way for their condition. Often people who have never experienced depression or known someone with it fail to understand that depression is not a choice. This common misconception makes those with the illness less likely to seek out treatment because they are afraid of being labeled mentally ill.
Being careful with the language you use, and focus upon reducing the stigma that surrounds the illness while will encouraging your loved one to treat their depression for what it is: A medical condition.
Don't Say These Things!
“Just snap out of it.”
“Get over it.”
“Why are you depressed, there are so many people in worse situations than you.”
“It’s in your head.”
“What’s the matter with you?”
“Stop being so selfish.”
“Look on the bright side.”
“You need to go to church.”
“Just change your mind, it’s your choice.”
“You’re being selfish.”
“You are stronger than this.”
“You need to grow up.”
“It’s such a nice day out!”
“Focus on what you have to be thankful for.”
“I don’t think you should take so many medications.”
“You think your problems are bad…”
“Smile, it will help!”
“Don’t play the victim.”
“Things can’t really be that bad.”
“Everyone gets depressed. You’ll get over it.”
“You look fine. What do you mean you’re depressed?”
“It’s your fault you feel this way.”
“Uh, you’re making me depressed.”
“You need to get out more.”
“You need to find a hobby.”
“Have you tried ______?”
These statements and those like them, no matter how well intended, trivialize what the individual is going through or worse, make it seem like their condition is their fault. Platitudes do not help a depressed person and only convey the sense that you do not really understand them. Responding in this way only adds to the stigma that makes it so difficult for a depressed person to seek out help.
It is important to stay supportive and express understanding. Make sure your loved one knows you are there to help them through the issues, that you understand that it isn’t their fault, and that you are there to do whatever you can to make life a little easier. Invite them out, offer them rides, and go with them to the doctor's office when they seek out help. Those are the actions that will show them that you care and are concerned for them rather than judging them.
The first step in helping a friend or loved one with depression is to inform yourself about the condition then work towards removing the stigma around it. Inform those around you and your depressed loved one to help spread awareness and understanding. An understanding environment will set a depressed individual up for a successful recovery. Once the stigma is removed, they are much more likely to seek out help and get better. A positive support system can make all the difference in a person’s journey out of depression.
- Tina Fuster
1. What Not to Say to a Depressed Person. (n.d.). Retrieved December 20, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2010/11/13/what-not-to-say-to-a-depressed-person/
2. Worst Things to Say to Someone Who’s Depressed. (n.d.). Retrieved December 20, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/worst-things-to-say-to-someone-whos-depressed/0004972
3. Shrivastava, A., Johnston, M., Sousa, A., Sonavane, S., & Shah, N. (2014). Psychiatric treatment as anti-stigma intervention: Objective assessment of stigma by families. International Journal of Medicine and Public Health, 4(4), 491-491.