What to Say to Someone who is Depressed
Well, here we are! In the thick of the hustle and bustle of our first, somewhat, post-pandemic holiday season. Shopping malls, homes, and airplanes, are full, again, with family and friends. Some are even meeting loved ones, like pandemic babies and grandparents, for the very first time. It feels so good!
But, maybe there's someone you know who isn't feeling so good right now. In fact, you've always noticed they seem sad, or even, angry, most times. It may even bother you because they can change the whole atmosphere of a fun gathering, just with their attitude. And you start to realize that holidays actually seem to bring out the worst in them. They may, or may not, have shared with you that they suffer from depression. If not, consider it a high possibility.
As a child, I loved Thanksgiving and Christmas. Both days were big in our house. Family, friends, and children everywhere. I loved watching all the holiday movies during Christmas break, wrapping gifts, decorating our tree. During those times I didn't feel alone or sad. It wasn't until I was a young adult, as my undiagnosed and untreated depression continued to affect my thoughts, that I became despondent during the holidays. Feeling lonely and hopeless, which, of course, showed in my mood.
If you know someone who seems down during this time of year, or even most of the time, whether or not you know they've been diagnosed with clinical (major) depression, I've put together 7 things to say to someone who's depressed that may help you have some breakthroughs when talking to them. They're not in any particular order.
1. You seem sad (angry). Do you want to talk? I'm hear to listen. Judgement-free.
Sometimes, especially during a depressive episode, a person may feel irritable or frustrated, without an apparent reason. They may feel as if no one wants to hear what they're thinking, or have to say. If you let them know you're there to listen, judgement-free, this could get them expressing all the negative thoughts that are weighing them down. Hearing themselves in a safe space, without criticism, or interruptions to "correct" their feelings, can be freeing for them while strengthening a bond between the two of you. This will most likely open the door for other, productive, conversations.
2. You seem sad more than happy most of the time. Do you think that?
Saying this, in a loving way, can get them to put their guard down and really explore how they approach situations and/or life itself, because they see you as someone who cares and really wants to know what they think. During some of my depressive episodes, I didn't realize I seemed sad more than happy until it was brought to my attention.
3. I care a lot about you.
This could definitely be a game changer. Maybe not the first time they hear it, but hearing it enough, it starts to sink down into your soul. Depression can affect the way you think/process words and actions of others. You usually believe you're unwanted or disliked by most or everyone. For someone to tell you they care, you probably don't believe it at first, because depression also causes feelings of worthlessness. But hearing this, backed up by actions, can help re-train their brain and thoughts, which is a huge step towards healing.
4. Do you just want to hang out today?
Depression can bring a feeling of loneliness, even if you're in a room full of people. You can feel as if no one really wants to be with you. In a group, yeah, but just you and them...probably not. Spending time with them doing something fun, especially if it's something you know they really like to do, would help smash that voice (the enemy, Satan) telling them, "You're a failure and no one wants to be near you". It will also make a memory that's stored in their brain that they can always pull out and think of whenever those thoughts come up.
5. I can't say that I know what you're going through, but I can say that I want to help in any way I can.
Saying this shows you're both honest and want to help. So many times we say, "I understand", when talking through a difficult situation with someone, even when we really don't. But letting them know, after hearing them out, that you really don't understand all the struggles they have going on inside, but you want to know how you can help, let's them know you genuinely care. Having gone through depressive episodes myself, I know that's a time when people usually don't want to be around you (and, truthfully, most times, I didn't even want to be around myself), so having a Ride or Die is something very special.
6. How did that make you feel?
I know what you're thinking. This sounds so cliche'! But, I promise, if said in the right context, by the right person, it's profound. When major life events occur, asking them that question can mean the difference between them spiraling down, or stopping and taking inventory of their feelings, making sure they're not over thinking or over personalizing. I know because I've been there, and believing every "negative" event was a personal attack against me, was a common habit before I started on my path to healing.
7. Please let me help you find someone to talk to who has experience with helping others with your type of struggles.
After a few conversations and they've opened up to you enough for you to realize they would benefit from counseling, offering to help them find someone could help take the fear out of stepping in that direction. If you offered to go with them, if in-person, the first time, I'd bet they'd take you up on it. Feeling confident that they aren't in this alone, can only help them take steps into the direction of healing, believing that it's possible.
I hope you found this helpful and can use it with someone you know.
I wish you and yours a joyous, whole and healed, holiday season!
Jesus...the reason for the season!