When someone around you is depressed, offering advice or wisdom may seem like the best thing to do. Sometimes, despite your best intentions, you may end up hurting the person even more. It is important to remember that mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, and others may need to be treated with medication, therapy, or sometimes both.

Whatever advice you give out, always make sure that the person with depression who is on the receiving end does not feel misunderstood, or worse, attacked.

1. Don’t tell them to try harder

In case you haven’t already realised it, the person is already trying the hardest that he or she can to cope with things like others. It just takes them a lot more effort and energy than those who aren’t suffering from depression or similar illness related to their mental health.

Like diabetes or hypothyroidism, depression can happen because the body is not making enough of the substances it needs to function properly. Similar to how people with diabetes might need treatment with insulin, people who have depression need medical intervention and support.

2. Don’t oversimplify

Cheer up! Smile! Stop! The whole point is that the person cannot cheer up here. Although this may feel friendly or supportive from your end, the person dealing with depression could feel like their illness is less important.

Just as someone who is depressed can’t force their brain to make more serotonin, they also can’t just decide to be happy themselves.

3. Don’t belittle their grief

A person who needs help may not always look like a person in need of help. This is true of many mental illnesses, but also chronic illnesses and conditions that are sometimes deemed invisible.

Avoid saying things like “…but you don’t look depressed”, or “you haven’t been acting any different” as it may hurt the person who is finding it hard to cope with the mental illness.

People often try to hide their feelings by shrouding them behind a smile either due to guilt, shame, or sheer embarrassment of admitting that they are suffering from a mental illness.

4. Don’t say ‘It’s all in your head’

It’s not all in their head and they’re certainly not imagining things. People who hear such phrases feel attached and feel like they are blamed for ‘making stuff up’.

Furthermore, depression very often is not just in someone’s head but in their body as well. There are many physical symptoms of depression, including chronic pain, which are very real. Depression is a medical condition that can’t be expected to improve without treatment.

5. Don’t shame them

This is often seen among parents and peers dealing with someone who has anxiety or depression in their family or friend circle. Often frustrated by their behavior, people blame them for acting selfish, saying other people have problems too.

A person with depression very well cares about the feelings of other people and this is often why they are so hesitant about opening up to people in the first place. So, if someone has opened up to you, lend them your shoulder with minimum advice.

Also read: Mental health: Why some find it harder to bounce back after lockdown

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