How not to talk to someone with depression

Nancy Beston, Staff Writer

Having depression isn’t exactly a walk in the park. Depression can have many different effects on individuals– may cause one to have highs and lows, or maybe one has major depression. Some may have functional “good” days and others won’t.

Depression isn’t a cookie-cutter term so there are many different treatments for each and every individual who deals with the disorder. Therapy and medication are the two most common treatments. Some who are diagnosed describe depression as intrusive and transitive but almost all agree that it is a monster. Depression causes one to feel isolated and overwhelmed with what they are facing, and they can also get quite frustrated with people’s response to their mental disorder. Some people understand the disorder and others are very unhelpful. The constant repetition of the same questions is exhausting for anyone — especially someone with depression. For those wanting to support depressed people, these attitudes may seem well-meaning, but they are actually quite destructive.


So depression is just being really sad, right?

No, not really. Depression is a mental health problem that can’t just be solved with ice cream and hugs. A lot of people will experience sadness throughout their life. Some may even face really intense prolonged states of sadness. The difference between being sad and depressed is complicated and hard to describe. People who may think that they are depressed should seek counseling and possibly help from a doctor. there is still, however, a definite difference between sadness and depression. Depression includes sadness but it also might be fatigue, suicidal thoughts or actions, the loss of motivation to complete daily tasks, appetite changes, along with many other symptoms.


Have you tried …?

Yes, I have tried drinking water. Yes, I have tried exercising. Yes, I have tried ‘self-care’ days. And yes, I have tried just being happy. The problem is that depression isn’t just sadness, and it can’t be solved with normal everyday solutions or remedies. Depression is caused by an imbalance of chemicals in the brain. Most of the time it is caused by a lack of the chemical serotonin, and that can’t be solved with lemon water. People who have been diagnosed with depression have likely gone over many different treatments with their doctors. Those recommendations probably include counseling, which is also suggested as the first line of treatment. Other doctors might prescribe medication for people who need to bring their baseline mood up so that they can function. If medication doesn’t work then they have probably tried different psychiatric drugs to see if they are more effective. Trust me, people have tried. No, don’t tell me that your aunt’s boyfriend’s sister took two bubble baths a day and it cured her. Just don’t.


Why not just cheer up?

Seriously? This is my blank-faced expression. I’m sure it has occurred to no depressed person in the history of ever to “just cheer up” because being depressed is so fun and awesome. This seems to come with an implication that depressed people are to blame for their own mental illness; that if they just tried harder, they wouldn’t be depressed anymore. It’s shaming, and also frustrating for people who are struggling with a really low mental state. Imagine if someone cut off your foot and then suggested that you just try growing it back. Have fun with that.


I thought you were fine now that you were on meds?

Ah yes my medication has cured all of my issues and I am all good now! Depression? Who? Never heard of her. In reality though, medications will help with depression but they aren’t a magic cure. Depression is a mental health condition that can persist for life. Sometimes that means going to therapy and remaining on meds for the rest of your life, and requires constantly adjusting your treatment as needed. You may have breakthrough depression where even with treatment you still have setbacks. You may have treatment-resistant depression where nothing really works for you and you’re struggling to manage your mental illness. There’s no cure for depression. Meds aren’t always reliable and mental health conditions are variable over time.