Now, this is great advice when a friend is just going through a little bit of a low point, but for someone who’s suffering from severe depression, this advice often falls flat.
Spend Some Time With Friends
From the DSM On Depression: Decreased socializing or extracurricular activities
When someone is severely depressed, spending time with friends is often unbeneficial. The reason this advice doesn’t help is that severe depression causes sufferers to feel alone or isolated regardless of the presence of other people. Telling someone with extreme depression to ‘just go out and have fun’ is like telling someone without taste buds to eat an ice cream cone. They might be able to do the act, but physically and mentally it just isn’t going to feel good. In fact, it may even cause someone with severe depression to feel guilty or helpless as they realize that hanging out with friends doesn’t make them feel better.
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Focus On Your Passions Or Career
From the DSM On Depression: Decreased interest or pleasure in most activities, most of each day
Another piece of advice we give people when they are depressed is to focus on their passions. The problem with this advice is that depression prevents people from enjoying their passions. So even if they do have something they love like playing music, writing or hiking – it may not provide them with any joy. This doesn’t mean that focusing on your passions is necessarily bad advice, just that it won’t have as significant of an impact on someone with clinical depression as someone who just needs a little boost.
Depression also causes the sufferer difficulty with their career. In severe cases, depression causes a sense of futility in the things that we do. So when someone is told to focus on their career may not see any real point to doing so. The idea of a promotion or a raise offers little to no motivation for someone who has the mindset of ‘what’s the point in doing anything?’
Don’t Judge The Person With Depression
It’s easy to get frustrated when you’re giving advice to someone close to you that is suffering from depression. We hear them vent and complain about life and sometimes we don’t understand. We offer advice thinking that it should be a quick fix and they really shouldn’t be depressed in the first place. We look at them and think, what’s so bad about your life? Maybe they have a good job and live in a first world country. Maybe they have a family and spouse. However, suffering is subjective, and even someone who ‘seems to have it all’ may still suffer from depression.
When the person close to us with depression says it won’t help, or they try to take our advice, and it doesn’t help, we often feel that ‘they just aren’t trying’ or ‘they are just giving up.’ However, it’s not that simple, and we need to back off from making overly generalizing judgments.
What You Can Do To Help
Be there for the person close to you who is suffering from depression. Focus on being open and understanding rather than focusing on giving advice or solving the individual’s problem. Having someone there to listen is often the best medicine for a person suffering from depression, at least in that very moment. The next best thing you can do is recommend for the person you care about to seek out professional help.
Statements To Communicate Someone Suffering From Depression
- I might not understand what you are going through, but I am here for you.
- Whenever you need to talk, just give me a call or visit.
- If you need space, I completely understand, but I am always here for you.
Statements To Validate Someone Suffering From Depression
- You’re an incredible person, and I care about you no matter how you are feeling.
- I know that depression is hard, but you are an intelligent and caring human being.
- No matter how you feel, you will always be important to me.
These statements are helpful when communicating with someone who has depression. They act as a way to validate the person’s feelings and highlight positive attributes about them. It’s important never to dismiss the way they are feeling. However, it’s also important not to assume the role of savior for the person who has depression. Unless you are a trained therapist, you are not certified to solve mental illness.
- Do Not Judge Someone’s Feelings With Depression
- Do Not Assume Regular Advice Will Cure Their Depression
- Do Not Assume The Role As A ‘Rescuer.’
- Validate Their Feelings With Understanding Statements
- Validate Their Worth By Looking At Their Positive Attributes
- Reinforce That You Will Not Abandon Them
- Recommend That They Seek Professional Help