Depression gets worse if the individual has little or no support. Stress without support is what leads to depression and suicide. Do the best you can to support those around you that have been diagnosed with depression.

we can do something before it is too late

How do you talk to a person who is depressed?

Proverbs 18:21

Death and life are in the power of the tongue, And those who love it will eat its fruit.

Through your words you can either heal or wound. This is why it is important to consider what you say to a person battling depression. Words also help us communicate empathy and compassion which are great tools if you are going to help someone deal with depression.

What you can say;

  • You are not alone. I am here if you need me.

Depression and any other disease that has stigma attached to it thrive in isolation. There is a constant feeling of loneliness and the thought that no one understands what they are going through. These people need to be constantly reminded that they are not alone. One of the ways to do that is through your presence- simply availing yourself to help or listen to them. 

  • That must be really hard. How are you coping?

Stressful life events can easily overwhelm one’s ability to cope. When this happens the depressed individual looks for alternative coping mechanisms. Most of them result to substance use where they use alcohol or drugs to try and numb the pain. I have seen others turn into workaholics in an attempt to escape from reality. That is why it is important to ask how they are coping.

  • Would you like to talk about it?

Simply offering an ear to listen or a shoulder to cry on can go a long way. You may not have expert advice to give but listen to them until you understand their struggles. Understanding their depression helps you to offer them comfort.

  • You are not worthless

Most of these patients struggle with feelings of worthlessness, helplessness and guilt. It is therefore very important to assure them that they matter. Most of them need a reminder that they are not a waste of space on this planet. This is where the word of God comes in handy.

  • Thank you for sharing with me.

A lot of people do not know that it takes a lot of courage for anyone who is depressed or suffering from any other mental illness to reach out and admit that they need help. If someone opens up to you, it is important to acknowledge and appreciate them for being bold enough to share their struggles with you. I believe that opening up or asking for help is usually the first step towards healing.

  • You are not a burden

This one is for the caregivers especially. A person who is depressed may constantly feel like a burden or a bother. It is important that you let them know that you are happy to take care of them. One of the best ways to show them that they are not a burden is by taking good care of yourself. Do not lose yourself or neglect your mental health while taking care of them. If it’s your child constantly affirm that they matter to you and that you love them despite their illness.

  • Have you visited a doctor yet?

 It is important that we encourage them to seek treatment especially if the symptoms have affected their normal life negatively. Most people do not know where to go for help in the case of mental health. You can research or find health care providers who offer mental health services around you. Don’t become a psychologist if you are not trained to be one. You can also offer to take or accompany them since most of these patients shy away from seeking medical help. Some may also not afford the treatment so if you are in a position to pay their bills, do not withhold.

What you should not say to someone struggling with depression;

  • Get over it

Someone who is depressed cannot just snap out of it. This is a mental illness not an emotion. These people usually feel stuck and their present circumstances are overwhelming.  This is not just a disorder one gets over or moves on from. These people need help moving forward.

  • Everyone has problems

While this is true it is also very dismissive. If you go to hospital with tonsillitis and find someone else on the queue with a giant neck tumour, your infection does not become insignificant. You don’t get healed from tonsillitis because someone else has a giant neck tumour. You simply don’t turn back and go home as you convince yourself that you are not sick. Or do you? Learn how to show empathy. You may have gone through worse than they did but before you dismiss them try and understand why they are unable to cope and move forward.

Last but not least allow the Holy Spirit to guide you when you are caring or supporting someone with depression. At times you may say all the right things and none of them becomes helpful. Let the one who knows all things, guide you in all truth. He is the wonderful counsellor.

He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. 2 Cor 1:4

If you are struggling with depression or know someone who is, feel free to reach out to me and lets get you/them some help. Author: Fridah .W. Wachira, 5th Year medical student (MBChB) at Kenyatta University, Kenya and a medical blogger. Contact; Facebook: Dr Wachira Fridah, Email: wachirafridah6@gmail.com, You Tube channel: Convo with Dr. Fridah and James Wetu.