Depression is something that is often misunderstood, especially by those that have never experienced it themselves. This is because, in a sense, depression is complex and doesn’t always come across as something that makes a lot of sense. While some cases of depression are in response to trauma or tragic losses, some cases are not as clearcut. To constantly feel the feelings of sadness without the sadness being accompanied by an apparent reason isn’t easily understandable to most people, unless they’ve been through it or have done extensive research on the topic. With this lack of understanding, comes commentary that is said to people with depression, but should not be. In most cases, people mean well and are trying to help the person struggling with depression. However, sometimes these comments can be extremely damaging for someone dealing with the devastating weight of depression. Here are a couple of the most common comments that you should not say to someone dealing with depression:
- Just cheer up
- We get it; you just want to see your loved one happy and want them to be able to “cheer up,” no matter how well-intentioned, saying something like this is not the best way to go. Telling someone they need to simply “think more positively” or “cheer up” gives the person struggling with depression the impression that their struggles are not valid. Of course, this is not true. Having depression is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain and is not something that can be fixed by “thinking positively.” If it were that easy, no one would have depression in the first place. Depression isn’t something that someone can just snap out of. Saying something like this can also make the person struggling with depression feel that they are not trying hard enough to fight their illness.
- It could be worse
- Could things be worse? Probably. Are there others out there who have it much worse? Of course. Does this change the situation at hand? Absolutely not! Does this make the feelings of the person suffering any less valid or change their situation? Nope! Telling someone that other people have it worse than them is not helpful or constructive in any way. Pain is not meant to be compared. We all experience pain differently and one person’s hardship cannot be compared to others. Shaming someone for their pain does not make other’s pain less painful. This comment doesn’t help anyone (Even someone that isn’t struggling with depression.) But for someone struggling with depression specifically, this comment can add to the immense shame and guilt they are already feeling.
- Everyone gets sad from time to time
- Yes, everyone has bad days and feels sad sometimes, but feeling sad is not the same thing as depression! Feeling sad in response to a breakup or disappointed by a fight that you had with a friend is not the same thing as depression. After such incidents, you may be able to feel better within minutes, hours or it might even take you a day or two. However, someone suffering from depression does not have the same luxury. Comparing the two situations is like comparing bananas to carrots and further invalidates someone’s struggles with depression. This gives them the impression that they should be able to just “get over it,” like someone experiencing sadness, which is not the case.
- You don’t have anything to be depressed about
- A depression spell can be caused by an experience or event. However, oftentimes, depression appears without much of a “reason.” Telling someone they don’t have anything to be worried about invalidates the person that is struggling with depression and their experience during this time. As one might imagine, feeling invalidated does not help someone dealing with depression or any other mental health issue for that matter. Keep in mind that everyone’s feelings are valid, no matter how things look from the outside.
It can be hard for someone who does not understand depression to know exactly what to say to their loved one when they are struggling. Something that can be exceptionally helpful is simply researching the topic. By educating yourself on the topic you are showing how much you care about your loved one by trying to figure out how you can best support them. When someone is struggling with any mental health issue, one of the most helpful things we can do is show them that we are there and care for them. This doesn’t need to be as difficult as it sounds. Showing up, researching and educating yourself can help your loved one feel supported during whatever struggle they are going through.