The other day I wondered, “Is it really possible to go through life without ever being depressed?” There are currently 121 million people suffering from depression worldwide and 1 in 10 Americans are affected by depression at least once in their lives. While 80% of people with depression do not receive treatment, the number of patients diagnosed increase by 20% every year. So basically, it’s not really possible to go through life without ever getting depressed and because it’s the cause of over two-thirds of the suicides reported each year and suicide is the third leading cause of death amongst ages 15-24, it’s time to learn how to be there for our friends because according to stats, there’s going to be a time when you’ll need someone to be there for you as well.
I want people to understand that depression is a lonely place. You want to vent but you don’t want to sound needy. You want to say you feel like giving up but you don’t want anyone to think you’re crazy. You want someone to be there to hold you while you cry but you don’t want to be the Negative Nancy who ruined the mood. So you try. You try to be happy. You try to be “okay.” You try to be “normal.” Because who the fuck wants to be friends or date the guy or girl who “has issues,” right? Being surrounded by people who love you but don’t understand you is the worst kind of lonely because you’re doing all of this “trying” for THEM and no one even knows where to start to try for YOU.
I know it’s hard and requires a lot of patience to comfort someone who’s depressed but there’s a reason that the numbers for depression and suicide continue to rise – most people who are depressed feel like they’re fighting a battle alone WHILE acting like the battle doesn’t even exist.
People deal with depression differently but here’s 5 things you shouldn’t say to your suicidal friend:
1. “But it’s not even around that time yet.” I know you’re trying to wrap your head around why they have the holiday season blues in early October when Thanksgiving isn’t until late November, but sometimes it comes early. Actually, most of the time it comes early. Instead of putting their depression on a schedule, try saying things like, “I’m coming over.” If your friend is depressed over a lost loved-one, holiday season can be worse than the actual death date so nothing says “I love you” like dropping everything just to be there because most of the time they won’t ask; they’re busy “trying” to seem okay.
2. “He/she is in a better place.” Well seeing as though your friend is not, lets focus on them and how they’re feeling instead of focusing on the person they lost. Try asking things like, “What would make you feel better right now?” They probably won’t have a real answer but it’d get them to think about happy things and happier times.
3. “You have to let it go.” Although I agree, it’s a process and your friend can’t skip steps or force it just because it makes you uncomfortable. All they can do is try their best and let it happen naturally. Try asking something like, “How do you wish you felt right now?” It’ll get him/her to think about positive feelings & how they ultimately do have to “let it go” to obtain and maintain those feelings.
4. “You’re strong, you got this.” We really have to stop teaching people that strong is the opposite of human; we’re allowed to be both. Some days I’m superhuman and other days I’m SUPER human but the days I’m depressed have nothing to do with that. Try saying something like, “you don’t have to be strong all the time” because that really is easy to forget.
5. “Why don’t you ever call me?” People who battle with depression tend to isolate themselves due to frustration, feeling misunderstood, feeling like they’ll be judged, etc. Whatever role you play in their life, it is YOUR job to reach out to THEM. Otherwise, they will suffer AND/or try to be their own hero in silence.
6. Anything at all: It’s kind of hard not to offer your two cents or feel the need to run to the rescue when your friend just got sad as fuck out of the blue…again. But sometimes, your friend just wants to cry, vent, and maybe even throw shit without being judged or labeled. Hearing, “you’re doing great things, why are you sad?” won’t make them feel better.
Always keep in mind that depression often leads to suicide. Don’t leave your friend to fight the battle alone just because it makes you uneasy. Do your best to be a good friend during that time and remind them that they have support. Also, because people deal with depression differently, go beyond this post and ASK THEM what they need to hear during the times they’re down.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 (available 24hrs)