Understanding mental health conditions is still a task for us. And if someone known to us is dealing with something, it becomes pretty hard for us to talk to them, especially because we feel unsure of what might offend him or her. That’s why it is critical to know how to deal with someone who is tackling mental health issues like depression.
Dr Rahul Khemani, a psychiatrist at Wockhardt Hospital, Mumbai says, “When caregivers of patients dealing with depression come to me, their first and foremost question almost always is “what do we do now?”. Most of them are clueless about how to talk to the concerned person, what to say to them, and what to avoid.”
He adds, “My only reply is, just listen to them, as this is all they want.”
People dealing with depression are always looking for a safe space
Dr Khemani suggests that everyone seeks a comfortable space to open up and talk, and so do people who are dealing with depression. He listed down a few things that you need to keep in mind, if someone around you is dealing with depression:
- Don’t judge them: They will only speak to you if they are comfortable to confide in you. Once they feel you’re trustworthy and non-judgmental, they will open up to you easily.
- Don’t assume: “I have seen many people not asking the person who is undergoing depression about things, instead they presume everything about their needs. Not everyone will cheer up by going out or by eating their favorite meal, everyone has different needs and you can only get to know them when you’ll ask them. There is always a possibility that you might think they need it, but according to them they don’t need it at all.”
- Don’t use any platitude phrases: This is one of the most common things, and must be strictly avoided. People use phrases like ‘ it’s not a big deal, we all have been through it’ or ‘you need more will power’, etc. without understanding the situation the person is in. They don’t understand that this might bring the person down.
Instead, Dr Khemani lists four phrases that you can say to someone who is dealing with depression:
1. I’m sorry you’re going through this
This will build a connection between you and the person.
2. Do you want to talk more about this?
This phrase will create the feeling of empathy. It will build bonds and create more trust. Also, this gives a window to the person dealing with depression, whether to opt in or out rather, rather than being forced into a conversation.
3. Whenever you need me, I’m there
A friend in need is a friend in deed and this statement actually certifies that you are someone s/he can bank on. “A person dealing with depression is at times hopeless. A statement like this will make him/her feel worthy,” says Dr Khemani.
4. You are not alone in this
This statement is again a testament of you being there with a person in their thick and thin.
“Be careful when you say you understand their problem. It can act as a double- edged sword. Some people might feel good but some might get offended, and feel that you do not understand their situation. So, one can say I might not understand what you are going through but I’m there for you”, he suggested.
The last word
We need to acknowledge that depression is real, and not just in the mind. It’s not a quick fix, it will take its own time. Your job is not to fix a person; instead, your job is to support them. That will make the person feel reassured.
In psychology, there is a concept of expressed emotions that can either be positive or negative.
Positive is when you allow the person to heal, and negative is where you are commenting on someone’s behavior without knowing the exact reason. Therefore, talking and hearing the person out is very important, so that you pull them out of depression.
So, use these tips and help someone who is in need!
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