What Not To Say When Talking About Depression
Talking about Depression and general mental well-being can be awkward and there is so much stigma around it. I understand why some find the subject difficult to approach, especially if they’ve never suffered from depression themselves. I think it can be easier to sympathise with physical problems even if you’ve never suffered with them yourself, whereas mental well-being can affect our personalities and behaviour; As such it can be problematic to know how accountable we really are for our actions.
Unfortunately I’ve found many people to be very good at saying the wrong things. It’s probably not their intention to cause harm – in fact the exact opposite -, but that is why it is important to learn how to talk about mental health. What might seem like useful advice or just an innocent slip of the tongue can be taken completely the wrong way when perceived by someone in a different mindset. This is just stuff that I’ve found from personal experience and others might have a different story to tell; Feel free to add your own points in the comments below.
- ‘What do you have to be depressed about?’ – Depression could be considered an illness or a chemical imbalance and there doesn’t always have to be a reason for why we feel it. Some days I feel anxious and I don’t understand why. Hearing this also make me feel guilty for being down, and in turn makes me feel even worse. I often feel like I’m not allowed to express myself when I get this response, but having an outlet can really help.
- ‘Everyone gets depressed sometimes’ – It’s normal for everyone to feel sad when something bad has happened to them; It’s normal for everyone to get a little run down sometimes, but I think it’s important to understand the difference between feeling sad and being depressed. When I started to realize that I had depression I could tell because of the way that it changed me. I started to lose interest in things, had less energy and sometimes even getting out of bed in the morning can be a struggle.
- ‘Just forget about it for now’ – It may be easy to forget about the problems of other people because you’re not living with them all the time. It can also take an enormous amount of courage for some people to open up to you about how they’re feeling, and nonchalantly tossing the subject aside can make it seem like you’re not taking them seriously. From experience I have found that it can leave me feeling pretty desperate and considering silly things just to get people to pay attention (especially if it’s a cry for help.)
- ‘Get over it’ – … or something along these lines, but depression isn’t something people choose to have and you can’t just flick a switch to make it better. If it was that easy it wouldn’t be a problem. I also don’t choose to live like this, if I could make it all go away I would. I often think back to the times before I had depression and wish I could be that same person again.
- ‘You should take anti-depressants’ – In my opinion this should be a personal choice to each individual, but I’ve previously felt pressured into considering this option. There are multiple ways of dealing with depression and different things work for different people. The best advice might be to suggest speaking to a doctor about it.
- ‘It’s probably just due to a lack of sleep’ (Denial) – It’s really helpful to feel like you have a network of support. However, I’ve found that a lot of loved ones just don’t want to acknowledge that you have depression – it can upset them to see you unhappy and it’s not always easy for them to understand why. Even though I’ve been diagnosed with moderate depression it is often put down to a lack of sleep or too much time spent on the computer. The thing is, a problem needs to be acknowledged before you can start to solve it. It may also be easier to talk to a person who isn’t emotionally connected to the situation.
- ‘There are people going through much worse than you are’ – Sometimes I feel guilty that I struggle to cope with simple things when there are people out there who go through much worse than I do. The thing is some people are better equipped to deal with bad experiences than others. Two people can go through the same event and while one comes out the other side just fine the other can be left struggling to know how to process it.
- ‘You are just too sensitive‘ – I had this said to me a lot while growing up. Now when I’m treated unfairly I find myself questioning whether I’m the one that’s actually to blame. I think people are on all different levels of sensitivity and it’s not something that you can just change – well I’ve found that to be the case anyway. With sensitivity I also like to believe that you gain other traits such as empathy.
- ‘It’s not normal‘ or ‘It’s weird‘ – I usually hear this when people are not quite sure how to describe a person with a mental disability and the words ‘not normal’ will accidentally slip out. I try to refer to it as mental health or mental well-being myself because that suggests that it can affect us all in the same way that physical health does, rather than it being those with the problem and those without. It shouldn’t be something to be embarrassed about and a lot of people are affected by it.
- ‘They don’t really have depression because they don’t experience it like I do’ – I’ve talked to other people with depression who expect all others to suffer with it in the same way that they do. I think it can affect people in different ways though. For example, when it comes to issues relating to low self-esteem and insecurities some people withdraw into themselves while others act up to draw attention to themselves. That’s why it’s important to seek a professional who can make recommendations based on your own personal needs.
- ‘People don’t really think like that’ – My inner voice is always putting me down and telling me to expect others to hurt me. Trying to tackle this inner critic is difficult because it can be habitual (i.e. rumination.) I think it can happen if you’ve been on the receiving end of criticism a lot while growing up – well I think that’s one of the issues for me anyway.
- Generally making you feel bad – It can be scary to admit that you have depression or other mental health issues. Sometimes I’ve been made to feel like I’m weak for needing a little extra emotional support. The truth is, it actually takes a lot of strength to keep pushing yourself to conquer that depression through each day.