Invisible Illness – What NOT to Say To a Depressed Person

We all mean well when trying to help someone who is struggling physically and/or emotionally.  Unfortunately we don’t always choose the right things to say.  Today’s entry about depression is just a quick glimpse of a few things NOT to say to our friends and loved ones who battle depression.  If you are like me a lot of the time you think AFTER you speak.  In sensitive cases like this that is definitely a disadvantage.  That is the purpose of this entry.  Just a couple of tips before learning what not to say.

1.  Think FIRST and not last!

2.  If you are unsure of what you are thinking about saying then just give a hug and say “I love you”.

Now just a short list of things not to say to someone who is depressed.  You would think these things would be obvious.  Unfortunately not everyone follows tip number one.

1.  “I know how you feel.”  Unless you also suffer with debilitating, mind numbing clinical depression then you do NOT know how that person feels.  Saying you know how they feel can actually come across as belittling their feelings.  This would be a good time to just give a hug.

2.  “You just need to get out more.”  I get this one a lot personally.  While the sunshine does help us the thought of getting outside especially among other people can make us feel even more alone and more depressed.  So, if you are suggesting walking to the mailbox to get the mail then that isn’t so bad.  But if you are suggesting we get dressed and go to the store or get a job or anything along those lines then this comes across as a very insensitive thing to say.  It shows that you truly have no idea what we deal with and just stresses what we already feel about ourselves – that we are a failure.

3.  “I get depressed sometimes too.”  I think the blues are normal for everyone.  While your blues may be very painful for you then please multiply how those blues feel for you by about 1000 and you understand what we feel like most of the time.  It is actually like comparing apples to oranges. While they are both fruit they are not the same and none of us can actually expect them to taste the same.  Apples are apples and oranges are oranges.

4.  “You just need to read your Bible more/You need to trust God more.”  While that may be completely true, clinical depression has absolutely nothing to do with a person’s spiritual walk. A person’s cancer has nothing to do with their spiritual walk and neither does my depression.  That’s not to say that physical maladies cannot be soothed by our relationship with God.  However, the number of times I open my Bible or the number of times I pray is not going to change the chemical makeup of my brain.  It is EXTREMELY insulting to suggest that it is.

5.  “You think THAT’S bad – you should hear what happened to me.”  This one should be self-explanatory.  A depressed person can barely handle their own problems.  Don’t expect them to take on yours as well.  Just as a side note – this is the wrong thing to say to ANYONE who is talking about something that is bothering them.  The person who turns the conversation to themselves in a situation like this is not a person a depressed person or a healthy person, for that matter, needs around them.

These may be harsh words and harsh realities.  However harsh they may come across they are fully true.  Now the next time you find yourself talking with a person who is depressed I suggest you follow tip 1 or tip 2 and perhaps avoiding talking at all.  If you feel like you must say something then come back here in the next couple of days to find out what things are most helpful TO say to a depressed person.

Please visit the Invisible Illness website for more resources, information and means of support.

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