Today society is talking about one nine letter word more now than ever before: DEPRESSION. Though this new aspect of public awareness is primarily positive, it also comes with a dangerous side effect: The more people know about depression (or think they know), the more they try to help those who are struggling.
But this is a good thing, right?
No, not always and here's why. Those who are trying to help can actually do more damage and cause inconsolable pain by the double-edged words that leave their lips, even when no harm is intended.
Here are 10 things you should never say to someone struggling with depression:
1. "Have you tried ... (insert various medication, activity, exercise, home remedy, etc.)?"
Though this question is filled with good intentions, it can be very demeaning coming from anyone other than a licensed physician.
Individuals who are depressed are constantly battling to regain control over their lives-they want to be happy again. But it's extremely frustrating when everyone they talk to tries to prescribe them with some new formula for happiness. Sometimes, a person who is depressed just needs someone to listen to them more than anything else.
Contrary to what many people may think, those who suffer from depression aren't lethargically lying around at home feeling sorry for themselves all day. Depending on how long someone has been depressed, they've most likely already tried a multitude of different things or are already in the process of doing so.
2. "I know what you're going through."
No. You. Don't. Whether you yourself or someone close to you has dealt with depression, it does not matter. You still don't genuinely know what someone is going through or how they're feeling because depression is not a one-size-fits-all experience. It is a personalized hell that is different for everyone. Just because you or someone else has felt one way in the past, doesn't mean that everyone with depression is processing things in the same way.
Instead of attempting to create a false sense of empathy, try saying something more along the lines of, "I don't know what you're going through, but I'm here for you and will help in any way that I can."
3. "Happiness is a choice."
This kind of language is dripping with ignorance. Modern science, has proven the exact opposite to be true for depressed individuals in that happiness is not always a choice. True clinical depression involves a chemical imbalance in the brain that physically impedes one from feeling joy.
Additionally, saying that happiness is a choice is very patronizing to the person trying to overcome depression. This phrase makes it sounds as though you think they are actually choosing to be sad, tired, anxious, hopeless or even suicidal. Nothing could be farther from the reality of their situation.
4. "Why are you sad when you have so much to be happy about?"
When someone is depressed, they don't just suddenly forget that they have a good job, a family who loves them or a nice home. Of course they are still very aware of these things. It's belittling to try and remind them of all that they have to be happy about. They know.
But depression changes things. It acts as a type of overpowering paralysis. A paralyzed man can see his unresponsive limbs and acknowledge that they're still there, yet his condition leaves him with no feeling or control over them. This is exactly what it's like for someone trying to defeat depression.
5. "Everyone gets a little depressed every once in a while."
Though this phrase is still highly inappropriate to say to someone who is depressed, it might be the truest statement on this list. Because yes, everyone does get a little depressed at times-that's part of life.
But not everyone feels this way for several weeks, months or years. Not everyone feels like their life has no purpose or that they're failing without even the slightest glimmer of hope. Not everyone stops eating, wants to hide from the world or tries to take his or her own life. Not everyone feels depression.
Generalizations like these can crush an individual's soul. NEVER attempt to justify or devalue what someone is feeling. Instead, encourage them to seek professional help and be someone who they can confide in.
6. "Try smiling more, and you'll gradually become happier."
This is like telling someone that if they walk around on their tippy toes, then they'll gradually grow taller. Both of these cases are illogical because the suggested action has no effect on the desired outcome.
Someone who is fighting depression has probably already forced a smile more often than you realize, and chances are it hasn't improved their situation in any way.
Remember to be sensitive and put yourself in your depressed friend or loved one's shoes before trying to help them. How you talk to, love and encourage them is vastly different from how you would console someone after they've simply had a bad day at work. What you say and how you say it matters more than you will ever know.
Alex recently graduated with a degree in public relations and is now working as an intern helping to produce content for FamilyShare.com. Apart from writing, he enjoys sports, backpacking and spending time with his amazing family.