7 Things You Shouldn’t Say To Someone With Depression

It’s two years since I came forward on this blog to talk about my journey through PostNatal Depression. Two years. Twenty Four Months. My son has grown up into a little boy, and me? I’ve changed too. Over the last two years I have come across a whole lot of different experiences when talking about my mental health. Most people are well meaning, and some interactions are really lovely. Others leave a lot to be desired. I got to thinking, perhaps a how-not-to-do-it list might work for a Mental Health Mondays post. (And then I got distracted by all the doom in the world so here we are on Tuesday, better late than never) So, here we are: 7 Things You Really Shouldn’t Say To Someone With Depression.

“I don’t think you need to take that medication for depression, you should really just try yoga/reiki/herbal tea”

Alright, this one is a big important one for me. This one is one that many of my friends and family who have had mental health issues have heard and it can be so, so damaging. If you’re not my doctor or my psychiatrist, you get no say on what medication I put into my body. I have come to terms with the fact that I take two pills every day so that I don’t spend my days in tears and planning on running away.

Yes, it’s great if the natural stuff works for you. I’m thrilled for you. I’ve found what works for me. If that changes, it will be a decision made in consultation with the medical professionals who have actually trained and had experience in this kind of thing. Come back to me when you’ve got a medical degree that you can’t just print off the internet. Just saying.

 

“Oh, someone’s off their meds….”

This one is just so offensive, and often inaccurate. It’s normally in reference to a bad mood, a grumpy comment or a stressed out retort. The things you need in that situation are calm, nice words, not provocation. It’s as bad as telling a woman she must be on her period because she gets angry.

“Yeah, I was really depressed last week…”

I am sorry to hear that. However, if I’ve confided in you about the dark parts of my mind and especially if I’m doing it in an emotional, big-deal confessional setting, telling me how depressed you were because you had a lot of work due for college, or you were too broke to go out, or your Tinder date cancelled on you doesn’t really compare. It’s not that it’s all about me, but in that moment, if you’re at least going to compare it, don’t trivialise it.

“You need to do more exercise and get some sleep, that should fix you”

Theres a sign on the bus shelter near my son’s creche that’s advertising the HSE mental health campaign. It says to ensure to get 8 hours sleep a night and your mental health will improve. As if it’s just that easy. Get the sleep and you’ll be fixed. My toddler is not in on this game at all, nor is the insomnia which has me staring at the clock and waking at odd hours of the night. As for exercise, it’d be something if I didn’t have to strum up Rocky levels of motivation just to put clothes on and leave the house. Just because it worked for you, doesn’t mean it’s an easy fix for everyone.

 

“You don’t look depressed”

I’m glad my face is at least paying attention to the “Please Look Normal” notifications. I’ve had some practice at this. Maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s a truckload of coffee and a decent concealer. I do try my best not to weep openly in public as to not make a scene. (See next point).

 

“You’re just looking for attention”

Oh god, anything but. I don’t want to have to tell doctors and friends and family that my own mind hates me. I don’t want to walk into a pharmacy every month to pick up my prescription and know that the pharmacist knows that I need medication to keep me on the straight and narrow. When the dark clouds do come over, I don’t want to see anyone, and definitely don’t want anyone to see me. Attention is the last thing I’m seeking.

“You Need to Just chill out, it could be a lot worse”

Yes, I have seen the news reports about Aleppo. The awful stories of deaths in Haiti from natural storms. Tragic car accidents killing whole families. I’ve seen friends lose jobs, watched the relationships of others around me end, people I love fearing homelessness thanks to unstable renting situations. I am well aware that I have it good. My little family is housed in a nice apartment, we’ve got good jobs, a happy healthy son and a lot of things going for us. I’m well aware that it could be a lot worse – but it doesn’t stop the horrible voices in my head telling me that the world is an awful place and bringing the clouds of doom over me.

And some alternatives to potentially throw into conversation with your friend with depression….

“I’m still here for you and I’m not going anywhere.”

It’s important to be told. Mental Illness can really mess with your sense of who is your friend and who isn’t – and can be a hard thing for a lot of people to handle, causing friends to distance themselves. Try not to be overbearing (nobody needs to be asked if they’re okay every five seconds) but let your friend know that you’re still there, hanging out in the background whenever they need to talk.

“You’re not crazy or weak.”

I’m self-deprecating to a fault, and I am Queen of Deflection. I call myself crazy probably on a weekly basis (generally while wondering how I got to this point). Most of the time I don’t mean it. When those clouds come rolling in though, it plays into the big old guilt fest of how much better my son would be without his crazy mother, too weak to get this depression to fuck off and leave us live our lives. So the use (by other people) of the words crazy or weak can feed into it – it’s bad enough when your own mind is saying it, but when others are too? Even when it’s well meaning and joking, if you’re in a compromised mental state context doesn’t matter.

“Can I make you a cup of tea?”

Tea is good. Tea is life. It’s a distraction from the ills of the world and a conversation opener if there ever was one. Can be replaced by hot chocolate for a sugar/comforting fix, but probably best to avoid coffee.

“If you want to talk, I’m here. Alternatively, if you need distraction, I’m good for providing that too”.

Sometimes we don’t want to talk. There are times we would rather gouge our own eyes out with pencils than talk about what we’re feeling and why and how it’s going to get better. Sometimes we just need a few moments of normal when everything is falling apart. So talk to us about Gilmore Girls, or toddler tantrums, or the latest celebrity gossip. Don’t treat us with kid gloves. We’ll talk about depression when we’re ready.

Those are just some of the comments I’ve had or seen others receiving – there are so many more out there that make the jaw drop too! Have you experienced any of them, or anything similar? Let me know in the comments below.

If you’re feeling low and need someone to talk to, you can contact the Samaritans on 116 123. They’re here round the clock, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. If you need a response immediately, it’s best to call . This number is FREE to call.

 

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16 comments / Add your comment below

  1. I don’t suffer from depression but I have with anxiety and amen to these. “You’re just stressed out – take a nice bath!” Nope, although it may help a bit it doesn’t get to the core of the problem.

  2. I have really learnt alot from this topic… Unfortunately sometimes we don’t know what to ask or say in some situations. But alteast I’m happy I have learnt alot I didn’t know some of these words could sound odd..

    Thank you I’m sharing this .

  3. I think that a lot of these comments you received stem from the fact that we are not educated on depression and mental health as much as we should be. This is why I am grateful and appreciate that you have created this post. Yes, things could be worse but that does not negate your feelings. The trouble I often find is that while we can quantify pain on a physical level, emotionally it’s just not the same. Depression is something that we all experience at some point in our lives, its inevitable. However you have shed light into what it means to suffer from depression as well as tips on how not to make matters worse. Thanks for helping us to be more supportive and better friends. Because the truth is, many times we just don’t know what to say.

    1. I completely agree, mental health education is something I feel we really do need to improve on. Hopefully it will be something that becomes less of an issue in the future. Thanks for reading 🙂

  4. It always really, really bothers me when people think they can armchair diagnose me. Don’t tell me all I need is to get outside. I’m outside every day, hiking, walking to and from places, or just enjoying the day. It’s so hurtful and it feels like they don’t take it seriously. Not many people know about my struggle mostly because out of the few who did, too many of them brushed it off.

    1. Oh I know that feeling all too well. The “Are you still whinging about that?” feeling. Hope things improve for you soon and that you’re having a good day 🙂 Thanks for reading!

  5. People can be really insensitive when it comes to depression. It is very real to those of us who have experienced it. We all have our ways of coping and no two people are the same. Loved this post as I have PTSD and can relate.

  6. I can’t even believe that someone would say “oh someone forgot their meds.” Some people can seriously be so insensitive. I struggled with a lot of postpartum anxiety and depression, and although I chose to refrain from medication, to each their own. It’s all about what makes YOU feel better.

    1. Thanks – yes, it does happen! I’m glad to hear you managed without the medication, as you say, to each their own! I’ve found a mixture of treatment options to work best for me, and it’s an ever evolving thing. Thanks for reading!

  7. People can be so insentitive and I wish more people would just stop and listen. Like really listen. But the reality is people are distracted, try to put themselves in your shoes, compare your approach to theirs. What I really want to say to them is, unless you know what you’re talking about please shut the heck up! People just want ‘problems’ to go away and that’s what they don’t understand about depression. There’s no ‘cure’, there are good days and bad days.

    Thanks for sharing your experience and tips. And I hope today is a good day xx

  8. So True having suffered from Depression and Anxiety all my adult life I have heard them all before, including” sure cheer up it, could be worse!” Or “sure what have you to worry about !! “

  9. I have heard all of the wrong things in my many years of suffering from depression – worst was my Mum telling me that my medication I was prescribe was going to make me worse. I wish I had got help sooner and so glad I listen to myself now !! by the way I have been on meds for 4 years and I am delighted to say I feel great.

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