Depression is a serious disease that affects over 120 million people worldwide. You may notice your spouse or child has a decreased mood and diminished energy. Relatives or friends may experience bouts of depression after losing loved ones or employment, going through health crisis or going through divorce.
Long-term clinical depression, or Major Depressive Disorder, is a persistent depressive state rooted in many factors — including chemical imbalances in the brain — that lasts at least two weeks. It can have an immense negative impact on a loved one’s work, family life, sleep, eating habits and physical health. So, when you come across a friend, relative or coworker with depression, make sure you don’t make these six common but insensitive statements:
1. “Get over it”
Depression is a serious matter that is not always easily dealt with. Getting professional treatment in a number of modalities, including prescription medication, therapy and even alternative treatments can help, but saying this won’t make anything better.
2. “It’s not that bad”
You don’t know how bad it is to them. The event that triggered the depression may not seem significant on the surface, but depression could be doing major damage on the inside once it has taken root. Try not to undermine or minimize how someone feels if you can’t understand what she’s going through.
3. “You’re weak”
Illness is not weakness. And projecting an ableist attitude onto someone who is suffering shows a lack of compassion and understanding that only makes you appear weak in character. Although a person may feel weak due to his ailment, calling him so will not give him strength.
4. “Stop whining”
Shaming a person with a psychological disorder is cruel and can cause further damage. Yes, constantly reinforcing the feelings he wants to rid himself of seems illogical and can be irritating, but it comes from a feeling of helplessness. As humans, we tend to express what we feel the most. If he were happy, he would be expressing that instead.
5. “I got over it”
What works for you will not work for everyone. Another’s experience with depression or its inciting events may be quite different from yours. Everyone has his own predispositions, chemical makeup and personal history, making for a unique treatment and healing plan. Plus, getting over something doesn’t mean you got through it. You may have put something behind you, but if it’s not entirely resolved, it could resurface and rear its ugly head again.
6. “You’ll be fine”
Be careful using these words. It can appear dismissive, uncaring or cold if said in the wrong way. Keep eye contact, smile kindly, and if you are close enough with the person, reach out and give him a warm hug and firm pat on the shoulder or back when saying this. If you believe he will get through this, let him know you mean it.
Remember to keep your feelings about life and all of its ups and downs in perspective when addressing someone with depression. Even if you see a simple solution, a depressed person may see hopelessness and nothing in her future. Keep communication open and the bonds strong in your spiritual and biological family. This is the time your loved one needs you the most.