Press Play For Advice On Dealing With Hopelessness
Hosted by Editor-in-Chief and therapist Amy Morin, LCSW, this episode of The Verywell Mind Podcast shares how you can manage feelings of hopelessness. Click below to listen now.
There are many reasons depression develops and a person cannot necessarily control all of the risk factors involved. Once a person has become depressed, it’s not a matter of just “talking themselves out of” a low mood.
Like diabetes or hypothyroidism, depression can happen because the body is not making enough of substances it needs to function properly. A person with diabetes cannot will their body to make more insulin.
A person experiencing depression due to low levels of neurotransmitters can’t simply “think” themselves into having more.
Similar to how people with diabetes might need treatment with insulin, people who have depression need medical intervention and support. For some people, this may mean taking medications that address chemical imbalances that can contribute to the condition.
Do You Want To Talk If So I’m Here
If the person seems receptive, it’s crucial to offer an opportunity to talk and to listen to what they say. This can be as simple as saying, “If you ever want to talk, I’m here.” This also lets them know that when they are ready to talk, you are there for them. It’s also essential to let the person know that you’re not going to judge them or try to fix their problems. That can be reassuring and will let the person know that they can come to you with anything.
Some things you can say are:
“I’m here if you ever want to talk.”
“It sounds like you’re going through a lot, I’m here for you.”
“If you need to talk, I promise I’m a good listener.”
Remind Them Of Ways To Get Help
People often don’t know, or forget, that depression is treatable just like any medical condition, like asthma or diabetes, Dr. Chaudhary explains.
Just like a physical condition, mental health conditions can be treated with an array of treatments, from professional counseling to self-care and medication. If youve listened to your friends struggles with depression and understand that theyre open to advice, try to remind them of these resources that are available to them, including therapy, speaking to a school counselor, telehealth, online support groups, mental health apps, and websites.
Both Dr. Chaudhary and Dr. HoganBruen emphasize the importance of reaching out to a trusted adult or professional for help, if possible. Depression is a serious mental health condition. If you’re worried about your friend, getting them help or enlisting someone who can like a parent or teacher, may be the best thing you can do for them. It only takes that one to change the trajectory of someone’s life, Dr. Chaudhary says.
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Youre Not Alone Im With You
Being with someone and reassuring them that theyre not alone is one of the greatest things you can do for a depressed person. And youve got to mean it: if you tell them that theyre not alone, and then you leave to go shopping, they will get the message that your words are just meaningless. But telling them theyre not alone and then showing them, by sitting next to them on the couch, by staying up late with them when theyre crying, by walking with them to appointments or just going for a strollall of that shows that you mean it, and that can have a real impact.
Tell Them You Understand
Before you tell someone “I understand,” you should be certain that you actually do. Have you ever experienced clinically significant depression? If you have, it may be helpful for your friend to hear that you have experienced what they are feeling and that it can get better.
Keep in mind, however, that there are several different types of depression, and even if you did experience clinical depression, it may have been very different than what your friend is going through.
If what you have been through was a case of the blues, on the other hand, your friend may feel like you are trivializing their experience by comparing it to yours.
In this case, it would be best to simply admit that you don’t understand exactly what they are going through, but that you care about them and want to try. Often, the best words to say are, “I don’t understand, but I really want to.”
Urge Them To Talk With A Doctor
Depression treatments are a very important part of recovering from depression, but people often feel ashamed of their condition or pessimistic about whether treatment will really help.
If your friend has not yet seen a doctor, encourage them to seek help and reassure them that there is nothing wrong with asking for assistance. Depression is a realand treatableillness.
If your friend is already seeing a doctor, offer to help with picking up medications and being on time for appointments.
How To Help Someone With Depression
Dr. Dowd encourages, If they express needing or wanting help, suggest to them setting up an appointment with their PCP. They can get referrals to a therapist or psychiatrist or maybe their PCP feels comfortable treating the depression. There are also a host of websites and national organizations that can also help inform someone about depression if they are not ready to seek help. Suggest the Anxiety and Depression Association of America or the National Alliance on Mental Illness, both well-known organizations.
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Never Say You Shouldn’t Feel That Way
Again, this can be considered gaslighting and is simply not helpful. “Remember, their depression is not the same as the clothes they wear. If you want to offer advice over things your friend/loved one intentionally chooses, then give them fashion advice, a nutritional discovery, or your latest/greatest stock pick. But don’t tell them they should not be depressed,” says Talley.
If youre having a particularly hard time being empathetic, then take the time to find some resources and read up on depression online and equip yourself before having a heart to heart with someone who is suffering through depression.
Things To Say To A Depressed Person
If you know someone with depression, understanding a bit about how its symptoms affect people and the common treatment options can be helpful. Its also important to communicate non-judgemental support.1,2,3 It can be hard to know what to say sometimes, but try to stick with supportive words instead of prescriptive solutions.
Listen, first and foremost. Empathize with what they express to you. Be present in the moment with them and try not to focus on what you should say to them or how you can help them.Dr. Sheila Dowd, Rush University Medical Center
Here are fifteen things to say to someone who is depressed:
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Warning Signs Of Suicide
Warning signs of suicide include talking about wanting to die, looking for a way to die , talking about hopelessness, and increased use of drugs or alcohol.
Warning signs of suicide include:2
- Talking about wanting to die or kill themselves
- Looking for a way to kill themselves
- Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live
- Talking about feeling trapped or being in unbearable pain
- Talking about being a burden to others
- Giving away important personal possessions
- Increasing use of drugs and/or alcohol
- Ongoing social isolation from family and friends
- Loss of interest in things that previously brought pleasure
- Engaging in reckless behaviors
- Saying they feel trapped and have no way out or alternatives
If you suspect someone may be having thoughts of suicide or suicidal ideation, ask them directly: Are you thinking of suicide? While it may be awkward, that moment of awkwardness is worth helping a suicidal friend and saving a life. If they are having thoughts of suicide, listen and offer to help. This may mean taking them to an emergency room or calling authorities.
But You Were Doing So Well Before
A person living with depression fights as much as they can each day to persevere, Geftman says. Understand that experiencing periods of sadness, as well as progression plateaus, will happen, and this is part of living with depression.
It’s important to understand that depression like many other illnesses can seem to be in remission and then suddenly flare up. One systematic review published in the journal Clinical Psychology Review found several factors can contribute to recurring depressive symptoms, such as having another mental health condition along with depression like an anxiety disorder.
Try instead: What are some signs your depression is back? And if I notice the signs, what do you think might help you feel better?
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How To Talk To Someone About Depression
Sometimes it is hard to know what to say when speaking to someone about depression. You might fear that if you bring up your worries the person will get angry, feel insulted, or ignore your concerns. You may be unsure what questions to ask or how to be supportive.
If you dont know where to start, the following suggestions may help. But remember that being a compassionate listener is much more important than giving advice. You dont have to try to fix your friend or family member you just have to be a good listener. Often, the simple act of talking face to face can be an enormous help to someone suffering from depression. Encourage the depressed person to talk about their feelings, and be willing to listen without judgment.
Dont expect a single conversation to be the end of it. Depressed people tend to withdraw from others and isolate themselves. You may need to express your concern and willingness to listen over and over again. Be gentle, yet persistent.
Offer To Talk Or Spend Time Together
While there’s no one answer for ‘what to do say to someone who is depressed’, its important to make sure that they know you are there for them, be it to talk or to just hang out.
You can also try to get them out of the house for a bit as long as coronavirus-friendly protocols are still possible. Suggest going for a walk together or grabbing a cup of coffee. “Depression often robs people of the desire to engage in activities that they had found rewarding in the past, so getting your depressed friend to re-engage is very helpful,” says Talley. (
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Hold Back On Offering Solutions
Did you read something online that you think the person should try? Before you give a suggestion like Maybe you should cut out caffeine and sugar or You need to check out this meditation I saw on Instagram it’ll definitely make you feel better, remember: You’re not their doctor, and depression is a serious illness that requires medical care.
Be careful to not fall into the mode and trap of being a problem solver, and offering a whole bunch of solutions, says Dr. Crawford. When we do that, its often a reflection of our own anxiety and discomfort with the situation. It can feel intolerable for us to sit with the discomfort, and coming up with a plan for the person makes us feel like were doing something. But its better to try to sit with their discomfort and pain, and to convey empathy.
This Must Be Really Hard Im So Sorry
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How Are You Managing Your Depression Would You Like Me To Visit The Doctor With You
Anyone who has depression should have a treatment plan. It may not always include medication, but it would consist of regular monitoring from a doctor.
Asking how they are managing can allow you some insight into their treatment plan. If they havent seen a doctor, offer to go along with them so that they will be more comfortable. Likewise, if they have seen a doctor, but their symptoms have worsened, offer to go with them again.
Do You Want To Talk About It Im Ready To Listen
They may very well not want to talk about it, and you shouldnt force them to, but by letting them know that youre there for them and that youll listen to whatever they say, without judgement, can be strengthening and boost their confidence. It can form a stronger bond between you and them, and even if they dont choose to speak with you right then, if you let them know that youre always there if they ever need to talk, they might just take you up on the offer.
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Youve Been Doing Really Great With : :
Depression after a surgery is fairly common. Its important to remain focused on the positive, especially when facing a longer recovery period. A great way to do this is to celebrate milestones, even small ones, together. Its easy to lose sight of progress if youre only seeing the long road ahead.
Its Ok To Not Feel Ok
Whether your friend or loved one is currently getting treatment or hasnt received a formal diagnosis, its OK if theyre not OK. Everyone has good and bad days. We all deserve some grace.
Sometimes, they might feel shame if theyre experiencing difficult feelings, so it might help to remind them that its OK to feel that way. Making it safe for them to express and sit with their real feelings in your presence can go a long way.
And just because right now is bad doesnt mean later will be.
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Instead Say: I Am Sorry You Are Going Through This I Am Here For You
Acknowledging your friends feelings whatever they may be can help them feel seen.
Depression is painful. You dont need to put a positive spin on depression. Its OK to acknowledge that what your friend is going through is hard.
Pellegrino recommends reflecting back what your friend is telling you with statements like It sounds like you are feeling miserable, or It seems like its been hard to enjoy activities lately. This lets your friend know you are listening and taking what theyre going through seriously.
We have to hold hope for people who are depressed because they cant be hopeful, but if you start with that, theres going to be a gulf between you and theyre going to feel invalidated by that, Pellegrino says.
Once your friend feels understood, you can share that you believe they will pull out of depression, even if they dont feel that way right now. Just remember that having this hope doesnt negate the painful reality your friend is currently experiencing. It helps to hold space for both: the fact that things are hard now and that you believe they will get better.
You Make My Life Better
When someone is depressed, they may convince themselves that their loved ones would be better off without them. When you tell them that they make your life better, they will know that their thoughts arent accurate. They need to hear this so they feel wanted and to know they arent making your life worse.
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Short Encouraging Words For Someone With Depression
36. Tough times never last, but tough people do. – Robert H. Schuller37. Love your future more than your past. – Joe Dispenza38. What makes night within us may leave stars. – Victor Hugo39. Depression has many faces and can creep in at any speed. – Fearne Cotton40. Sadness is but a wall between two gardens. – Kahlil Gibran41. He knows not his own strength who hath not met adversity. – William Samuel Johnson42. Depression is melancholy minus its charms. – Susan Sontag
Im Really Sorry Im Here For You
Its important that these two phrases come together. Saying youre sorry without saying youre available might appear to your friend as though you dont really mean it. On the other hand, saying youre here for them without saying youre sorry might not show the kind of empathy they need to hear. But when you combine them, theyll know that theyre valued, that you care about them, and that youre willing to give it your all to get them through it.
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If You Believe Theyre Considering Suicide Or Self
- See a list of Psych Centrals suicide prevention resources.
Whether you share these with your friend or write them on sticky notes to leave around their home, some of these uplifting quotes could bring a little hope and brightness to a loved one with depression.
There is hope, even when your brain tells you there isnt.
One day you will tell your story of how you overcame what you went through, and it will be someone elses survival guide.
If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.
It doesnt matter how slow you go as long as you dont stop.
Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.
The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, not to worry about the future, but to live the present moment wisely and earnestly.
When one door closes another door opens but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us.
Alexander Graham Bell
It is never too late to be what you might have been.
And if today all you did was hold yourself together, Im proud of you.