Having a supportive person to talk to when you’re feeling depressed can really help ease the symptoms a little. There are no magic words that will make someone feel better and it can be tough to know what to say to someone that is suffering. In my opinion, avoiding the subject is the worst tactic. It breeds guilt within the sufferer and makes them feel like an outsider, which can end up pushing them further away.
When I feel helpless and upset it’s important that I feel comforted, even when I can’t explain exactly what the problem is. If you know someone who deals with depression take the time to ask them if they are OK and tell them that you’re there for them. Even these few simple words can make them feel less alone.
Here are some helpful things to say to someone who is struggling. This is by no means a complete list of what to say – it’s just a few things that have worked for me.
1. “Do you want some space?”
Although it’s important to show support by being present in someone’s life and ensure they are not isolating themselves, often some time alone can be helpful to digest how they’re feeling or just recharge their batteries. Offering to give someone space if they really need it can be a good idea.
2. “I’m here for you”
Just knowing someone is there when we need them can be a great comfort. Many people with mental health problems are reluctant to ask for help, as they don’t want to bother people with their issues. Expressing to a loved one that you are there whenever they are ready to talk is a good start to opening up lines of communication.
3. “I love you”
Feeling alone, upset and helpless can be terrifying. You don’t always need to have the answer to their problems as there is rarely a perfect solution. Just saying, “I love you” lets them know they have your support no matter what they’re going through.
4. “Take as long as you need”
For someone in a deep depression or even just an extremely low mood, seemingly easy tasks can feel overwhelming. Everyday things, such as taking a shower or cooking might seem too much to deal with, especially early in the day. Many people with depression feel their mood lifts towards the end of the day, so allowing them extra time to do these tasks is a good plan.
5. “You don’t need to do anything that makes you uncomfortable”
Feeling pressured into something, such as social situations when you’re feeling depressed can be incredibly upsetting. You may feel obliged to appear cheerful, which can be very difficult. Knowing these events can be avoided for the time being can help a person feel relaxed and allow them the time to focus on their own health.
6. “Everything is going to be OK”
It sounds simple, but just telling someone that everything is going to be OK can soothe their mood. When people get upset or frustrated, they often jump to the ‘worst case scenario’. Gently calming them down and reminding them what small steps can be taken to improve the situation can help.
7. “I don’t think you’re crazy”
There is still so much stigma around mental health that sufferers often feel marginalised for having a problem. Feeling alone and different from everyone else will only exacerbate the problem, so remind your loved one that although their illness is real, it’s treatable and doesn’t make them any less of a person.
8. “You’re a good person”
Guilt is a common feeling with depression and can be a trigger, as well as a symptom. Often people feel like they are a bad person because they were too sick to go to work or attend a social occasion; but this is not the case. You wouldn’t judge someone for missing an event due to physical illness, so why would you think someone was a bad person for being mentally unwell?
9. “It’s not your fault”
It’s common for mental health issues to seem easy to fix on the surface, but as we know it’s often a complex issue that can take years to resolve. Reminding the person that they can’t just ‘snap out of it’ is key; it’s not easy to fix and it’s not their fault.
10. “You’re not a burden”
People with depression often have to rely on friends and family for lots of things; such as cooking, cleaning and shopping. Be clear that you are happy to help whenever you can (being sure not to put your own health at risk). Making sure they feel comfortable asking for and receiving help can ease the pressure of daily life considerably.
Fiona Thomas is a UK blogger who suffers from depression and generalised anxiety disorder. She is a keen advocate of mental health and uses her blog to explore these issues, help others feel less alone and break down the stigma around the subject. She talks about how her passion for writing – along with other techniques – help her to live with depression and minimise the symptoms of anxiety and depression.
For more tips and insight into living with mental health visit www.fionalikestoblog.com