Thursday, 22 March 2012

Things you Shouldn't Say to Depressed People

As many of you know, I am battling depression.  During the A-Z Challenge, my submission for D will be Depression, so I won't go into in detail now except to say that life can be tremendously difficult.  A little less than a third of people who suffer from serious depression are treatment resistant - meaning that drug therapies just don't seem to work.  Lucky me, I'm among that third.

In my experience, most people are sympathetic, but unless you've experienced depression first hand, you can never really understand how hard it is.  This lack of true understanding can lead people to say some interesting things, which though often well intentioned, really aren't very helpful.  For someone more sensitive to me, they may even be hurtful.  So, here are some things you probably shouldn't say to a seriously, clinically depressed person:

Snap out of it:  Geez.  I wish I had known that I could just flip a switch and snap out of it before I spent tens of thousands of dollars on psychiatric drugs and therapy.

What have you got to be depressed about?:  One of the key features of depression is that it really screws up your thinking and can turn daisies into piles of dung.  Sometimes, frustratingly, I feel profoundly depressed without being able to identify specific patterns of thought that make me feel  that way.

Buck up:  I don't know what this even means, but it is not helpful.

You're just lazy:  Depression is an energy sucker.  Getting motivated to get out of bed, brush your teeth, bathe get dressed seem like Herculean tasks.   Some days, getting anything else done is simply impossible.  Only a real wanker would say this to someone who is depressed.

You're faking it:  Nope.  Sorry.  Up yours.

You seem okay to me:  One of the great tragedies of depression is that many who suffer are really good at hiding it and so don't get the support or help they need.  This past summer, two professional hockey players, Rick Rypien and Wade Belak were thought to have committed suicide.  According to media reports, the warning signs, in retrospect, seemed to be there for Rypien, but Belak's death was a complete surprise to many - he seemed a happy, go-lucky guy who loved his kids, though I would suspect that those closest to him knew something was wrong, if not so horribly wrong that he would take that ultimate step.

Depression is an awful soul-crushing affliction and its sufferers need support and some semblance of understanding.  Many people would be amazed at just how debilitating the disease can be.  So, please, try not to be flip with people who are going through this and avoid saying things that don't help or that minimize what they are going through.  Indeed, try to make sure they get the professional help they need.


  1. Thanks, Geoff. People need to know this. It would be so much better if they ASKED how you are doing rather than making comments like this. And then you need to be honest about how you are doing rather than faking the "I'm fine" so they can start to understand what you're going through.

  2. Depression really is one of those things you can't possibly understand unless you've been there. I have always tried to be sensitive to others, before I even really had to face it myself. But it's amazing how many people are unintentionally insensitive. And intentionally, but most people just don't realize what they're saying and how much it really doesn't help.

  3. Hi Geoff, my mum suffered with depression for quite some time. Looking forward to your A-Z challenge this month!

    This is me, Duncan D. Horne, visiting you from the A-Z challenge, wishing you all the best throughout April and beyond.

    Duncan In Kuantan

  4. Hi, I am so sorry you battle depression. I know that many people do. Come visit me sometime if you wish. Hope you can find a way to help you overcome it. God bless you, my dear. Ruby

  5. Thanks, all. Look forward to visiting everyone.