Talking to Someone About their Depression

comforting someone - holding hands

By Cristina Utti MA, MFA

If someone you care about suffers from depression, you may be feeling an overwhelming amount of difficult emotions ranging from helplessness, sadness, frustration, and guilt to fear and anger.

It is taxing to deal with a loved one’s depression. Talking with your loved one about their depression may not be easy. Here are a couple things to keep in mind:

It is not your fault – You are not responsible for their happiness. Do not take their depression personally. People suffering from depression may lash out or say hurtful things. Remember that you did not cause the depression, nor can you fix it. What you can do is be there for them.

Do not be an enabler – It will not help your loved one if you make excuses or lie for them. If they are having trouble managing their daily life and you enable them to keep behaving in this manner, it may prevent them from getting the help that they need.

Depression is a serious condition. One of the most helpful sources for the depressed person is having a support system of people who will listen and try to understand what they are going through.

Here are some tips on how to approach the subject:
  • Tell the person that you love them and are concerned.
  • Let them know how important they are to you.
  • Tell them that you are there for them. Let them know that they are not alone in this.
  • Ask them how you can help. Maybe together you can come up with a list of things that will help them get through their depression.
  • Be understanding. Do not take what they say lightly or make jokes about it. Depression is not a joking matter.
Avoid saying these things:
  • What is wrong with you?
  • Stop feeling sorry for yourself.
  • You have so much to be grateful for.
  • Why can’t you just look at the bright side of life?
  • Are you better yet?
  • Why can’t you just snap out if it?
  • There are people way worse off than you.

Although it may be frustrating to see someone we love moping around, feeling sad, or constantly crying, neglecting their feelings or telling them to snap out of it will only make them feel worse. One of the best remedies for someone struggling with depression is for them to know that their family and friends are there for them and love and need them. When feeling at their lowest, a depressed person may think that their life is not worth living. It is of utmost importance for them to know that they have people who need and depend on them.

Once the subject is out in the open, do not be afraid to ask them questions. You may ask them how long they have been feeling this way. Ask them what you can do to help. You can ask them to think about what brought it on, as this may be helpful for them to learn more about the root of the problem. If you feel it necessary, although it may be uncomfortable, ask them if they are having suicidal thoughts.

Depression is a mechanism of the fight-or-flight instinct, which is why it is so closely tied to self-destructing behaviors. People with depression often employ ways of trying to make themselves feel better through ‘flight.’ The actions can be anything from starving themselves, cutting themselves, abusing alcohol and drugs, or running away from home to the most extreme action: suicide.

Being there for the person you love can be a strain on your mental and emotional status. Keeping yourself healthy and thinking about your own needs while you help your loved one is not selfish. Knowing your boundaries and what is healthy for you will help the both of you get through this together.

People with depression often isolate because of the way they are feeling. Being there for and talking with the person in your life who suffers from depression may just save their life. If the situation does not improve over a period of time, reach out to professionals for help.

Contact us now at 800.218.6727 if you or a loved one needs addiction treatment. You don’t have to do it alone.