People who are depressed go through a tough time on a daily basis and there are some things you should never say to them. It comes of as callous, mean and unnecessary when you don’t consider or respect the other person’s feelings.
It really costs nothing to be kind.
What Does It Really Mean To Be Depressed?
The dictionary definition of depression states it as feelings of severe despondency and dejection. What this means is that the concerned person feels he/she is at a state of extreme loss.
Your perception of the situation (Whether there’s an actual loss or any form of dejection) is not your prerogative.
As a friend, you should respect how your friend or family who is dealing with depression FEELS.
How you think they should feel, because you have arrived at the conclusion that they could be more grateful in their present circumstance is uncalled for. Nobody needs your excruciating optimism. Believe me, there’s a better time for your cheerleading.
Depression DSM-5 Criteria
DSM means the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. DSM–5 is the standard classification of mental disorders used by mental health professionals in the United States and beyond.
A large number of Nigerian mental health practitioners still refer to the DSM-5 in identifying and diagnosing clinical depression, so its important that you familiarize yourself with these symptoms.
According to the DSM-5, a person must be experiencing five or more of the following symptoms for a period of time to be diagnosed of depression.
- Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day.
- Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities most of the day, nearly every day.
- Significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain, or decrease or increase in appetite nearly every day.
- A slowing down of thought and a reduction of physical movement (observable by others, not merely subjective feelings of restlessness or being slowed down).
- Fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day.
- Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt nearly every day.
- Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness, nearly every day.
- Recurrent thoughts of death, recurrent suicidal ideation without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt or a specific plan for committing suicide.
As the DSM-5 has outlined, depression is some pretty heavy stuff.
So the next time you think your depressed friend is “overreacting”, think again.
Things You Should Never Say To A Friend Who Is Battling Depression:
1. “Nigerians / Africans don’t get depressed”
Nigeria has the highest suicide rate in Africa; I believe a lot of Nigerians are depressed and in dire need of therapy, but are somewhat scared to admit it. Prioritizing your mental health doesn’t make you weak, on the contrary it makes you strong because you have chosen to put yourself first. A lot of us grew up in African homes where mental health wasn’t even a topic of discussion.
You’re depressed? Ki lon je be?
But we aren’t our parents. We’re a different generation, and we prioritize our feelings and mental health.
2. “So, Is that why you’re depressed?”
People that belittle your experience for any reason at all are the worst kinds of people. If someone opens up to you that they are unhappy, suicidal or depressed, be KIND. Always remember to be kind.
3. “You’ll be fine”
I’m sure you think this phrase helps, but it really doesn’t.
Its especially annoying when you have disclosed a personal problem to a person and the only response they offer is ‘you’ll be fine’.
Last last, we will all be fine now.
4. “Your own is even better”
Nigerians absolutely love comparing problems. Misery doesn’t always love company. If you feel a compulsion in your spirit to discuss your own problems at that point, I want you to pause, swallow the words and stop.
Its rather dismissive when someone tries to trivialize your emotional traumas with how herculean their own problems are.
Sometimes all a person needs from you, is to just listen.
5. “Man Up”
Never tell your male friends to ‘man up’ over their mental health – Depression doesn’t have a gender. Depression is not a woman’s disease.
Instead, encourage your male friends to talk about their feelings, and when they do, do not stay silent because I can assure you they get a lot of that from their male counterparts. Many men affected by depressive symptoms are not even aware that they are struggling with something that must be taken seriously.
Men, please cry when you feel down and speak up when something is wrong. Do not suppress your emotions, it will not make you less of a man.
What You Should Say Instead:
A clear line of communication has to be established, first of all. Don’t shy away from the subject.
Admittedly, you have to be careful with your actions and words but that doesn’t mean that you walk on tip toes around said person. In fact, you should be kind to anyone regardless of their mental health.
Be there. Make yourself available for your friend. Lend a listening ear to his/her woes. And if you don’t have anything tangible to say afterwards, that’s fine, you’re not licensed to psychoanalyze after all.
Squeeze your friend’s hand or give a warm hug and say something reassuring like “I need you to know that I’m here for you, I dey for you no matter what”, “I’m sorry you’re dealing with all that, please let me know what I can do to be of help”, “I want you to know that you can call me the next time you feel this way, I’ll be here”.
No matter what you do or where you are, remember to be kind. Everybody is battling with different things, but you will never know because as human beings a lot of us are programmed to smile, while deep down we’re fighting so many battles. Always treat people the way you will want to be treated.