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Depression, what not to say

In the last week or so I've spoken to a lot of people who have suffered from, or are going through some form of depression. One of the biggest things that came across is they don’t want sympathy. What they often want is just an ear to listen.

Depression can feel like the loneliest place in the world. You can be in a room full of people, hiding behind a mask of smiles and laughter, but inside feeling like a person trapped on a desert island not knowing which way to escape.

So as a friend how can we help? It’s not always easy to know if someone is depressed. Hiding behind ‘a happy mask’ is something that depressed people I've spoken to have told me that they do. Take five minutes with all your friends for an extra chat. It can sometimes help them to lift the mask up and let their feelings surface.

Acknowledge. Chat with your friend. Say you’ve noticed they’ve been a bit quiet lately. Give them reassurance that you’re there for them when they’re ready to talk.

Don't pretend it's not there or that it is not a serious condition. It can be very debilitating for the person involved. A comment like this can make them feel even more insignificant and that people aren’t taking their problem seriously.

Don’t bring up their problems in front of other people. It can be very damaging to your friendship and to them.

Sometimes it's just about listening. Listening without judgement or giving advice. Don’t see crying as a weakness. The person involved would like nothing better than to feel happy again and be themselves.

Never call a problem stupid or tell them that it is nothing to worry about. It may stop them talking to others also, leading to a potentially even worse situation.

The important thing is to be there. Be genuine, don’t lie to them. Don’t tell them things and not really mean them. A hug or simple ‘I’m here for you, if that’s okay’. Tell them how much you value their friendship and that you care about their life.

Depression makes people feel worthless and not needed. Be there to reassure that person that they really matter and that you want to help.

Don't be afraid to help them find the right help they need.

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