If you’ve never put your foot in your mouth, well, consider yourself lucky. For most of us, saying the wrong thing now and then is just a fact of life. But if you have a friend or loved one with depression, that “wrong thing” could be more than just a social faux pas. In fact, insensitivity to mental illness is a big problem. As Psych Central says, insensitive comments “can nick an already slim sense of self, which is likely bruised from your own biting inner critic.”
With more than 15 million Americans suffering from depression, it’s likely you know someone affected by the disease. When you’re looking to support – not hurt – your loved one, these phrases should never be part of the conversation.
Snap out of it.
Would you ever tell someone suffering from diabetes or heart disease to “snap out of it?” Sadly, many people assume depression is something akin to a bad mood, and “cheering up” is an attainable – or even easy – task.
At least… (insert inappropriate comparison here).
Brené Brown said it beautifully when she stated, “Empathy never starts with the words, ‘At least…’” It’s easy to feel compelled to lighten the moment when a friend opens up to you about depression. But guess what? Responding with, “at least you don’t have cancer,” isn’t going to help – ever.
So many people have it worse than you.
Yeah, so what? Telling a person with a broken ankle that some people have broken legs – or no legs at all – will never erase the pain of a broken ankle. What it will do, however, is make someone who is suffering feel foolish about that suffering – causing even more pain.
Life isn’t fair
The whole “life isn’t fair” talk might work with a four-year-old begging to eat ice cream for dinner, but it won’t help a friend who feels hopeless and alone due to mental illness. As I said in R U OK? Teen Depression and Suicide, depression is like wearing sunglasses in a dark room. It completely obscures your vision. Chances are your friend already knows – and feels – that life isn’t fair.
Just get out and do something.
Exercise is a healthy coping mechanism for people with depression. That said, don’t assume that your friend’s depression will be cured through a morning run. In fact, many people suffering from depression experience physical symptoms that make it difficult to “get out and do something.” Exhaustion, lethargy and even muscular aches and pains are all common symptoms of depression.
You have to choose to be happy
Life is full of choices. Sure, you can choose to work out in the morning or eat a healthy salad for lunch, but you can’t simply “choose” to be disease-free (spoiler alert: everyone would do it). Yes, people with depression can help themselves through treatment and therapy. That said, accusing someone of “choosing” to live with depression isn’t helpful – it’s hurtful.
by Kristi Hugstad
Each of us has attached ourselves to something or somebody, and when you lose that special thing or person, you grieve. Always. You can try to run from it all you want, but it will always find you and tackle you when you’re not looking. My blogs, along with my books, will give you the tools to help you learn to live with your new self as you journey through your grief.