Working in mental health as well as living with my own mental health condition, I witness all kinds of responses and reactions from family members and friends regarding their depressed loved one. Sometimes they mean well and other times they are just mean. Based on what I hear, it is often really difficult to tell the difference. In an effort to perpetuate the education and sensitivity of others I’m creating a little guide. I know these types of guides have been created before, but people are either not paying attention or they forget. Please print this out, pass it around, leave a copy at Starbucks or something! Perhaps we can start a movement of sensitivity and understanding. Not only are these phrases not helpful for people with depression, but they are not helpful for anyone that may be going through emotional turmoil such as grief, loss of a job, divorce etc.
Be grateful for what you’ve got, there are people who have it worse: Depression has absolutely nothing to do with not appreciating what you have. When the depression goggles go on, perspective takes a step back. By pointing out that anyone “should” feel a certain way just adds more guilt and shame to the already twisted emotions we already have. Sure, we could focus on the better things we have compared to say someone from a third world country, but does that make anyone feel good and happy? For some egotistical maniacs perhaps it does, for the rest of us, NO. This goes right along with…
It could always be worse: By golly you’re right. I’m so grateful my crap doesn’t have more crap on it I feel so much better, said no one EVER!
It is what it is: I hate this saying for a lot of reasons. For one, I think it’s over used and for another it’s usually used inappropriately. The only place this phrase works are in situations where it doesn’t really matter to you in the grand scheme of things e.g. You drive by a house and you don’t like the color. Someone says, “UGH, that is an ugly ass house”. You can then respond, “Well, it is what it is.” I think its original intent was to get people to stop trying to change things that they can’t, but the way I hear it being used they just sound like callus jerks. People that are experiencing a state of unhappiness or distress don’t want to hear this over used, useless saying. Let’s throw in “Don’t sweat the small stuff” as well!!
Cheer up, you are bringing me down: Then go away. If these words ever pass through your head don’t let them out, just let yourself out. We should also include “suck it up”. You suck so go away.
You need to get out more: Well if the weight of this misery wasn’t keeping me here planted firmly on the couch sure, I would be right out there with you.
If you ate this, took this vitamin or exercised more you would feel better: When it comes to physical health people suddenly become nutritionist and fitness gurus. They feel like they are in on a secret the rest of the world isn’t in on. Believe me, we have tried all these things at one point or another. They (for the most part) do not work. There is a reason they are called ‘FADS’.
Get out of your head, stop overthinking: Ok, I will do that if you can will your heart to stop beating. Stop needing oxygen to breath. Don’t think about purple elephants jumping on trampolines. Ya, not so easy is it?!
Get therapy, take meds: This isn’t necessarily a bad thing to recommend, but it’s how you bring it up. Often it’s the one with the least amount of knowledge regarding mental health that will say, “Just take a pill and get over it.” It may be that one person we wish would hear our words that says, “Go talk it out with a professional” or “shouldn’t you talk that over with your therapist instead.”
Depression can be frustrating not only for the person who is suffering but the loved ones around us, we know this. So often I hear people ask, “What can I do to help.” The easiest answer is, be there. Don’t go in thinking you are going to fix anything, most of the time you can’t. Just make your availability known, and don’t allow too much time to go by if they don’t make contact with you. Actions can speak louder than words.