Making a depressed person feel less alone and more valued is an immediate goal when helping them deal with depression
Depression is not fun for anybody.
But despite the evidence that suggests the contrary, there are still Nigerians that believe it is a white man’s disease, which means not a lot is being done to properly combat the problem.
So you’re hanging out with your friend and somehow they let slip to you that they’re depressed, there are not a lot of graceful ways to successfully navigate that conversation.
This is because moments like this tend to ride mostly on the emotions of the participants and it’s very easy for this kind of conversation to derail without you realising it.
What you, as the friend of a depressed person, should understand is that your good intentions aren’t good enough if they elicit destructive reactions.
The initial reaction to a friend’s depression can be very pivotal to how they deal with it, so it’s very important to prepare yourself for what to do and what you should probably avoid.
Although, this is not a guide on how to talk your depressed friend out of their problems, but a guide on how to not make it worse and make them regret talking to you about it.
There are a few things you probably should not say to a depressed person because it isn’t as helpful as you might be misled to think.
1. “Your situation is still better than some other people.”
The revelation of your problem is an invitation for them to tell you about their own old dead-and-buried problems and weigh them on a scale to make sure they win the duel.
This is not always done with malicious intentions as it can be argued that it’s a ploy to diminish the other person’s problem and make them gain perspective on how worse off they could be.
However, diminishing the concerns of a depressed person about their problem doesn’t do anything to help them overcome it, so deflecting their problems by making it about something else is a dangerous distraction from working towards a solution.
2. “Stop feeling sorry for yourself.”
People’s understanding of how depression really works is part of the reason why they may appear to be insensitive towards the plight of someone suffering from it.
Depression is a mental illness that has a wide range of causes that negatively affect how you feel, think and act.
You don’t just shake it off and log out because your well-intentioned friend chanted Hakuna Matata for a few minutes.
Once you fall, for some reason, into that dark hole, it takes control of your life in a way that the decision to “just be cheerful” is probably not up to you anymore.
This is why it’d be useless if all you have to tell a depressed person is for them to just drop it like it’s some fashion accessory.
3. “You have no reason to be sad.”
So your depressed friend is a young financially-stable over-achiever with a loving family and apparently has no reason to ever be blue; it’s still never a wise choice to tell them their problem is invalid.
This could seem like a reasonable observation to point out especially if the depressed person can’t offer a particular reason for their depression, which is quite common; but it doesn’t really offer anything in the way of helping said person figure out how to deal with it.
Because of the stigma, depression is not something that comes up in casual conversation quite often, so when it does come up, you should be doing your best to deescalate and create a safe space for your friend.
You should not be making them feel like idiots too blind to all the good things in their lives to be cheerful about.
It’s possible to have everything you wish for in your life, and still fall to depression.
4. “Get up and do something with your life.”
So your unemployed friend or your introvert friend tells you they are depressed and being the Dr. Phil that you are, you diagnose them with “doing too little with your life.”
Just like with the previous entry, don’t make the mistake of weaponising your good intentions to make your depressed friend feel judged or made to look like they don’t want to not be depressed.
When you are put in the impossible position of helping a friend deal with their depression, it’s not about how quickly you can respond, it’s about how helpful you can be.
Choose your words wisely.