How To Talk To Someone Who Is Depressed | Your Helpful Guide
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Depression is a spectrum that something that affects thousands of students. Depression can vary from persistent low moods to suicidal thoughts and ultimately suicide. It’s a serious condition.
Like all mental health, depression is not to be taken lightly or trivialised. Despite there being a 450% increase in mental health declarations amongst students, almost half of students still do not declare any mental health issues to their doctors. While this demonstrates a decline in stigmatisation, it doesn’t mean we’re entirely out of the woods. Over half of new students don’t declare any mental health history, which could be a positive sign that the mental health epidemic isn’t as bad as we thought. Or, more realistically, people are scared to disclose personal experiences out of fear of judgment.
Statistically, you will likely know someone who suffers from depression.
This is even more true when we consider the devastating impact the pandemic has had on young people’s mental health. With 37% of new students suffering showing moderate to severe symptoms of depression, you might be suffering from this yourself. If so, check out some resources below to ensure you get the help you need.
Being around someone who is experiencing depression can make you feel as though you’ve lost all sense of communication. But it shouldn’t. That person is still the same friend or loved one, and they need help. Even though you may not be a mental health practitioner, you can still talk to someone with depression in a way that can help them. Ensure they’re supported and perhaps even guide them to any professional services.
1. Remind them they are not alone
Suffering from depression is an isolating, draining and terrifying period in someone’s life. But if you’re watching someone you know go through this, it can make you feel helpless and unable to communicate effectively. Or, even worse for the person suffering, avoid contact altogether.
Most of the time, the best thing you can do is keep letting your friend know that you are thinking about them and that they know they’re not alone. This can be very helpful in certain circumstances, so make time to text, call, email and pop round.
2. Let them know they are loved
This is an effortless thing that is forgotten so often in our day to day lives. We all like to feel valued and loved, and a simple message or a text telling someone they are important can make all the difference that day.
3. Talking about depression
It can be difficult to broach topics about mental health, and often, people don’t want to overstep boundaries. Remember, it is not your job as a friend to force someone to talk about how they are feeling if you think they may be depressed.
Let your friend know that you are available to talk whenever they need it, make sure they are aware they can come to you. If they open up and want to discuss it, make sure they know that you do not judge them even if you don’t completely understand how they feel.
If you have suffered from mental health problems personally, sharing your experiences can really help the person and may make things easier for them. Be careful not to project or dominate the conversation. Use your experience to empathise with how they are feeling.
4. Ask them what help they need
Depression can be utterly debilitating for sufferers. Many struggle to carry out simple tasks that are easily taken for granted. Making an offer to sort their housework, grocery shopping, or trips to the post office/pharmacy means you are dealing with small everyday tasks that could be a huge additional burden for them.
The importance of the environment shouldn’t be downplayed. A clean, airy, bright and safe environment is essential for people experiencing problems with depression. Encourage your friend or loved one to come with you outside in the fresh air to talk. Tidy their living space for them if it’s in disarray. Whilst not a cure, these little actions can help in some way.
Tangible or physical support can be a great way to help a friend if you don’t currently feel like you have the right words to discuss depression.
What NOT to say
It’s equally important that when you are trying to help, you don’t inadvertently make things worse or compound how they are feeling.
Often it can feel like people suffering from depression want answers or solutions to resolve how they feel. We would suggest avoiding this. Providing simple solutions to someone who is depressed can result in them feeling trivialised.
You shouldn’t draw comparisons with other people’s problems, “At least you don’t have to deal with XYZ.”
This can seem like you’re suggesting their feelings are less worthy because they are not experiencing enough plight. It can have a very negative impact and make their suffering seem self-indulgent or unwarranted.
2. Over reassure
Over reassurance is another trap people fall into. Promising everything will be okay and that it will all turn out fine, in the end, don’t necessarily bring comfort. Avoid the generic platitudes and blanket statements wherever possible. You don’t need to reassure the person; you just need to be there for them.
3. Ask them to stop
Finally, the biggest no is telling someone to pull themselves together or to snap out of it. This is often thrown at those suffering with depression, but it fundamentally misrepresents depression and frames it as a choice. Unfortunately, depression is not a choice; it is a mental illness. We must remember this and treat people with the same empathy as we would someone suffering from a physical illness.
It can be the hardest thing to do, but listening openly without judgment is often the best help you can give. You should also understand that it is not personal if someone suffering from depression doesn’t respond to your texts or calls. Withdrawing socially is a symptom of depression. We must be very conscious to remember it is often not a personal choice not to engage or socialise.
Depression is a big deal, and it is something people can struggle with their whole lives. Many of these things we have suggested today are small. It’s important to note they may not result in your friend immediately recovering. A quick message or a phone call can help alleviate someone’s pain on a darker day. You never know; you genuinely may save someone’s life just by making sure they do not feel forgotten about. Trust your gut. If you think something’s off, check in with your friend.
We are not mental health experts. If you or someone you know is suffering from depression, reach out to any of the services below, tell a family member or close friend and get the help you need. Your uni will have a mental health and wellbeing support team and share these details with people who need them.