As with many mental health conditions, there are varying degrees of depression which range from clinical depression to depression that comes on because of an external event such as a bereavement or divorce. Either way, if a person is feeling sad or finding it hard to cope, there are good ways and bad ways of handling it.
Knowing what to say and what not to say can be a minefield - after all, you don't want to make someone who is already feeling bad feel worse.
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The Mental Health Foundation say that among 1 in 4 people will suffer from some sort of mental condition in the space of a year, while mixed anxiety and depression is the most common mental disorder in Britain. Among older people, 1 in 5 suffer from depression.
So the chances are, that you probably already know someone who has depression or who suffered from it.
Do you know the best and worst things to say to someone who's depressed? Kristen Stewart from Everyday Health via HuffPost Canada has compiled a go-to list:
"Snap Out of It!"
<strong>The scenario:</strong> Your loved one hasn't left the house in what seems like days. Should you tell him or her to pull himself up by his bootstraps and just snap out of it?
Don't Say It
You may be tempted to tell someone who's depressed to stop moping around and just shake it off. But depression is not something patients can turn on and off, and they're not able to respond to such pleas. Instead, tell your loved one that you're available to help them in any way you can.
"What Do You Have to Be Depressed About?"
<strong>The scenario:</strong> In a world full of wars, hunger, poverty, abuse, and other ills, you may feel impatient when someone you love feels depressed. So do you remind him or her how lucky he or she is?
Don't Say It
You can't argue someone out of feeling depressed, but you can help by acknowledging that you're aware of his pain. Try saying something like "I'm sorry that you're feeling so bad."
"Why Don't You Go for a Nice Walk?"
<strong>The scenario:</strong> Exercise is a known way to lift your mood. Is it a good idea to suggest that your loved one with depression go out and enjoy some fresh air and activity?
Say it — But With A Caveat.
By definition, depression keeps you from wanting to engage in everyday activities. But you can show your support by offering to take a walk, go to a movie, or do some other activity with your loved one. How about: "I know you don't feel like going out, but let's go together."
"It's All in Your Head"
<strong>The scenario:</strong> Some people believe that depression is an imaginary disease and that it's possible to think yourself into feeling depressed and down. Should you tell your loved one that depression is just a state of mind — and if they really wanted to, they could lift their mood with positive thoughts?
Don't Say It
Suggesting that depression is imagined is neither constructive nor accurate. Although depression can't be "seen" from the outside, it is a real medical condition and can't be thought or wished away. Try saying instead: "I know that you have a real illness that's causing you to feel this way."
"Seeing A Therapist Is Probably A Good Idea
<strong>The scenario:</strong> You think your loved one could benefit from talking to a mental health professional. Should you say so?
Reinforcing the benefits of treatment is important. Encourage the idea of getting professional help if that step hasn’t yet been taken. This is especially important if your loved one has withdrawn so much that she is not saying anything. Try telling him or her, "You will get better with the right help." Suggest alternatives if you don’t see any improvement from the initial treatment in about six to eight weeks.
"Have a Drink — Things Won't Look So Bad"
<strong>The scenario:</strong> Maybe your depressed loved one just needs to relax and unwind. Should you take him out for happy hour and suggest having a drink or two?
Don't Say I*t.
Suggesting that someone with depression have a drink is never a good idea, since alcohol itself is a depressant.
It's Great to See You Interested in Things Again
<strong>The scenario:</strong> You notice that your loved one is coming out of his or her fog and starting to enjoy some of her preferred creative or other pastimes again. Should you comment on it, or just play it cool?
Pointing out specific improvements you notice — like a boost in energy or renewed interest in activities — can encourage someone with depression along the road to recovery.
For help, support and advice on coping with depression, visit Mind.
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