Depression is more than feeling depressed. It is so much more than simply being sad.
Depression is a mood disorder that affects about 14.8 million American adults, and as many as one in every 33 children. Chances are, you know someone who is suffering. It can be hard to know what to say and how to help, and it can be challenging to watch someone you love battle with something that isn't easily cured. Depression is just as serious as a physical ailment, such as diabetes or heart disease, and should never be treated as something that can be controlled or miraculously "snapped out of."
Loving someone with depression isn't easy, but understanding and compassion is needed most.
I talked with a group of people who suffer from depression, and these are five common phrases that people have said to them that have only hurt them more.
1. "A lot of people are worse off than you"
Yes, everyone has trials; and from an outsider's point of view one trial can look a lot more daunting than the other. But depression is serious, and telling someone you love that their problems aren't valid or aren't as bad as someone else's doesn't encourage them to get help or give them the love and understanding that they deserve.
2. "Happiness is a choice"
While happiness is most certainly a choice for those who do not suffer from a sickness or chemical imbalance, clinical depression isn't the same as feeling sad, and cannot be chased away by choosing to be happy. Those who have depression have tried to be happy, have made life changes and have often tried to convince themselves that things are fine, with no success. This phrase simply does not apply.
3. "Do you feel better now?"
Many well-meaning people will try to talk to those they love with depression to give advice, make them laugh or take them on an outing to get some fresh air. And oftentimes, a hopeful "Do you feel better now?" will follow. Spending time with your loved one who suffers from depression is amazing medicine; but don't expect them to be healed or suddenly happy just because they were able to do something fun with you or vent to you. Depression literally impairs certain areas of the brain, creating an imbalance that can't just be wished away.
It's unfair to think that your loved one is having a pity party or trying to be a victim within their circumstance. Life isn't easy at all for your loved one, but it isn't because they chose for it to be like that. Even if you don't exactly understand what depression is or how it feels, never make your loved one feel guilty for what they're going through.
Depression is NOT a sign of weakness. Some of the most intelligent, successful, driven people in the world battle depression. Most likely, your loved one is dealing with something that requires incredible strength, stamina and resilience in order to just get out of bed in the morning or to keep going. Encourage those you love by telling them that you admire their perseverance while going through such a hard time. Remind them that they are important to you, needed, and incredibly loved.
If you or someone you know suffers from untreated depression, seek a medical professional right away.