We have friends and best friends throughout our lives, some we stick with, and some we gradually grow apart from. Whoever you have in your inner circle, you know they’re there for you and would do anything to make sure you’re doing alright, right?
Well, sometimes and sometimes not. Some of you may or may not know that I have struggled with major depressive disorder (MDD) and generalized anxiety for a number of years now. If not, well, now you know. But with me telling you this, I would like to talk about simple steps or tips to helping someone you know who is depressed or seems to be going through a hard time. (DISCLAIMER: I am not a licensed health professional, I am merely speaking to my own personal experience. Everyone experiences depression differently, if you know. So here are some personal tips and helpful hints to help someone who has depression, anxiety, or both.
5 Things to Say (And NEVER say) to Someone with Depression
- DON’T: Ever tell them they’re “too much”: Being a depressed person is already hard enough as it is, someone telling you that your mental illness is too much for them is like being stabbed in the chest. Most people who feel depressed already believe they can be a burden to themselves or to others simply by having depression at all. People who suffer from depression may already have distorted ideas about how loved and supported they really are and hearing that they are a burden to others just makes them feel even more alone and worthless
- DO: Remind them how special they are to you: Tell them how much they mean to you, how strong they are, and how even though they may be having a really hard time right now that they can make it through today, even if it’s one step at a time.
- DON’T- Shame them for being negative: Depression only allows its victims to see the world through lenses of negativity. Whether that’s putting themselves down to make a joke or thinking only about the bad outcomes of a situation. By shaming them and telling them to “not think like that” or to “be more positive,” this makes them feel like they have an incorrect or wrong way of thinking and may make them feel isolated and then pretend to be positive as to not be called out again on being negative. With the recent “Good Vibes Only” trend, it’s really hard for depressed people to want to vent to anymore for fear of someone not wanting to get down and only wanting positive vibes.
- DO – Empathize, connect, and if you’re comfortable, ask them why they feel this way: When I become negative during the course of a conversation or make a particularly dark joke relating to one of my mental illnesses, it makes me feel better when someone either vents or relates to my joke or comment somehow. For example, if I say, “Man, last night was super rough for me because of my midterm, I practically cried my eyes out.” It would make me feel better if someone were to say, “Yeah, that sound rough, that midterm was really hard, but it’s over now. I’m sure you did your best.” Or if you feel comfortable asking the person why they were so stressed out that they cried about their midterm. This could leave to a more one – on – one conversation if the person is comfortable talking about it to you. If not, do not be offended. Some people are not used to being asked about the negative comments or jokes they make and may not want to talk about them yet.
- DON’T – Constantly offer them advice on how to feel better: I cannot tell you how many times I have been asked if I exercised maybe that would help, or have I tried yoga? I understand depression is different for everyone and yoga may work for some people, but not for all. The more you tell someone how to deal with their depression or anxiety, the least likely they are to ask for your help in the future for fear of getting an earfull of advice again.
- DO – Ask them what things are you doing currently when they feel down and see if you can help them take small steps towards self – care in rough times. For example, if they say they are so stressed out they can’t even work on anything, ask them if reogranizing their files and homework would help, writing down what they need to get done, or other such ways. The first thing I always try to do is something small like taking a shower, the wonders of hygiene go away for some people if even the smallest tasks seem impossible.
- DON’T – Tell someone you don’t know how to help them when they’re in crisis: If you’re someone that struggles with M.D.D. or panic attacks, you know that whenever you enter a room, you immediantly locate the closet exits in case of emergency or an oncoming panic attack. If you’re like me and have explained to trust individuals how to help in person, or over the phone in how to help you calm down from an attack, you would think they would remember the plan you told the, but sometimes, you would be horribly wrong. If someone calls you in the midst of a panic attack or tells you they need your help, DO NOT for their sake tell them you DON’T KNOW WHAT TO SAY OR DO TO HELP. It’d be like them getting stabbed in a movie and asking you to call for help while you stand there and say I don’t know how to helo you, I’m not a doctor.
- DO – Remember the plan and how you can help, or until help comes: I don’t know about you, but when someone remembers exactly how to calm me down from an attack or comes to help me if I cannot control myself alone, it is a special kind of bond. You know you can trust them enough if you’re in crisis to know what to do. Be there for them and be alert and keen to the signs of their triggers or signs they may need assitance. If you see they are shaking, seem on edge or overly anxious more than usual, ask if there is anything you can do, and proceed depending on their responce.
- DON’T – Tell them you’ll always be there for them if you know you can’t: Being depressed affects everyone with it differently, but for me specifically, I hate when someone tell me they will be there for me when I really need them, but not bother to answer the phone when I try to call them at 3 am when I am crying uncontrollably and I know they’re awake cause I saw it on their snapchat. Depression is irratic and doesn’t have a fixed schedule of when it’ll hit. If you are someone rock in their moment of crisis, or you have a friend you know is going through a rough time, please be mindful of your phone. The worst feeling is in the middle of a panic attack when your fp (favorite person) won’t pick up their phone no matter how many times you call them. DO NOT LIE TO THEM and tell them you’ll always be there for them if you don’t think you can be on call for them when they need you the most.
- DO – Be ready to come to a friends need or be on call for them if you know they’re going through a rough time: Being friends with someone with a mental illness is hard work, but if you really are a true friend and care for them, you want them to know you can count on them. If you yourself don’t have mental illness but your friend does, try researching the illness, reading about it, and try to understand what they might be going through. It’s hard for a depressed person to put their feelings into words a lot, but listening to them and how they feel can give you some insight on what it’s like to walk in their brain for a day. VALIDATE THEM, and REMIND THEM YOU CARE. No matter how many times my suitmate reminds me that she loves me and she care about me, I must be reminded. Most depressed people, no matter how many times you tell them you care or you love them need to be constantly reminded. Everyone needs to know they’re cared for and loved, but depressed people may need a bit more reminding than the average person.
Thank you for reading. This took some strength to write so if you read this all the way through, thank you very much. If you have any further questions about mental health or personal experiences, feel free to message me.