I don’t generally want to comment on what is best for someone who is depressed or anxious. Every person is different and they have their own way of dealing with things. What works for me might not work for someone else. Same way, what worked with one person you know will not necessarily work with someone else. Infact from what I have read, two depressive episodes are also different from each other and we cannot rely on same things to work the second time. While it is super important to speak to people about mental health and care about betterment of people we love, it does not have to coincide with unsolicited advise. There are some clear DO NOT DO which everyone should be aware of. These are not only applicable to people who are depressed or anxious, but also to anyone who is upset or feeling low. Anyone who is sad should not have to hear these things. As per personal experience, these are very hurtful and even triggering in some cases.
Do not say/do these things to anyone who is sad, depressed or anxious:
- Anything that negates or minimizes their feelings – invalidation is the most common thing people do indirectly or directly. What a person is going through ia best known to them, do not say or do anything that suggests their feelings are not valid
- Dismiss the signs – there are numerous changes that can be spotted in someone’s behavior when they are depressed, do not dismiss it thinking it is a phase. It does not always heal with time.
- Making it about yourself – this is again a very common mistake and something people do not intend to do but end up doing. When someone is expressing their feelings, never make it about yourself in any manner. The focal point should always be the person who is suffering.
- Comparing it to others – Never suggest that they are going through something someone else had and force them to follow someone else’s model. It is a very subjective case for people, even if the scenario appears same to you no two brains work same.
- Anything apathetic – It is better to not speak to someone who is depressed than to express apathy. More likely than not, a depressed person already feels burdened and apathy can only add to it. It can make them feel unloved which is the exact opposite of how they should be feeling.
- Asking them to snap out of it – depression is not something that can be snapped out of. Do not ask people to shake off the sadness, cheer up, be happy. They want to but are unable to, us saying it will not make it happen.
- Forcing them to try – while it is understandable that you want someone you love to recover, us forcing them to try harder will not yield the desired results. Adding pressure is not helpful in anyway to someone who is depressed.
- “There are bigger problems” – BIG NO! Do not tell them that their reason or problem is small. They know there are bigger problems in world, for them their problem is so consuming that it does not allow them to step into any other avenue. This will only make them feel worse.
- “You are only thinking about yourself” – that is the problem, sherlock! They cannot get out of the loop which makes them sad. If you suggest or say anything that shows they are selfish, you are effectively adding to the problem.
We all know that depression is a mental health condition and we must never forget that when speaking to someone who has it. Just like you cannot say “snap out of it” to a cancer patient, it cannot be suggested to a depressed person either. So do not suggest anything that you would not to a physically ill person. Listen to these people who are going through issues, give them your time, ask them how you can help, make them feel like they have someone to bank on. Only they can get themselves out of the problem completely, you have to only be there in any capacity they require. Do not try to be a therapist, that is a professional’s job. Be a friend, loved one that you are and do things in that capacity.