Whats Going On That Makes You Want To Die
This invitation to the suicidal person to tell their story can provide validation, engender a sense of connection, and show that you really want to understand. Ask the person to tell their story. And then, listen. Really listen. To deepen your understanding, follow up with more invitations to share, like Tell me more. Show empathy and understanding, too: That sounds awful or I can see why thats painful.
Remember Youre Not Expected To Be Their Therapist
Going into a difficult conversation, however, remember that its not your job to be that persons therapistits your job to help them by connecting them to help, says Andrea Bonior, Ph.D., a licensed clinical psychologist in Washington, D.C., and the author of Detox Your Thoughts: Quit Negative Self-Talk for Good and Discover the Life You’ve Always Wanted.
I Care About You And I Would Be So Sad If You Died By Suicide
Be careful here. In my earlier post, one of the 10 things not to say is, Dont you know I would be devastated if you killed yourself? How could you think of hurting me like that? As I note in that post, Your loved one already feels awful. Heaping guilt on top of that is not going to help them feel soothed, understood, or welcome to tell you more.
At the same time, a simple statement of how much you care about or love the person can help nurture a sense of connection, if your statement isnt an attempt to stop the person from talking further about suicide.
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What To Do If Your Friend Has Suicidal Thoughts
If you are concerned your friend may harm themselves,dont dismiss your gut. Instead:
- Pay attentionto anything said about suicide, other forms of self-harm or a world thatdoesnt include them.
- Keep the lines of communication openso they know they can talk to you when they have these feelings.
- Encourage themto get professional help.
That help may include outpatient therapy and psychotropic medications prescribed by their primary care doctor or a psychiatrist. If you think your friend is in immediate danger, call 911 or take your friend to the nearest emergency department.
Remember: Your friends situation is not hopeless. Like other illnesses, depression can be treated with the right medical help and the support of friends like you.
Finding The Words To Help
Steven Gans, MD is board-certified in psychiatry and is an active supervisor, teacher, and mentor at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Verywell / Ellen Lindner
Knowing what to say to someone who is depressed isn’t always easy. Try not to be dissuaded by worry over saying the “wrong” thing. Too many people with clinical depression feel alonea state that only worsens their condition. If you don’t know what to say, just say thatand tell your friend that you are there for them.
This article discusses what you can do when you want to say more, but have a hard time expressing what you feel. It also covers statements that someone who is depressed might find helpful to hear.
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Know The Warning Signs Of Suicide
The risk of suicide is high in those living with depression. No matter what you say or what you do to help your friend, they may still experience suicidal thoughts and feelings. Make sure to be on the lookout for warning signs of suicide and know when to seek help.
Some signs to watch for include:
- Talking about wanting to die
- Expressing that they feel like a burden to others
- Feelings of extreme hopelessness and sadness
- Withdrawing from friends and loved ones
- Sudden mood swings
- Giving away possessions or making a will
- Making ambiguous statements about not being around in the future
- Open discussions about suicide or having a suicide plan
- Previous suicide attempts
If you spot warning signs of suicide, you should talk to your loved one and ask them to speak with a mental health professional. When there is an immediate risk, you should remove dangerous items from the home, make sure you don’t leave them alone, and get help from a medical professional immediately.
If you or someone you love are having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911.
For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.
What Not To Say: You Have Such A Great Life Why Arent You Happy
Let me first explain that depression is never as simple as feeling the opposite of happiness. Depression is feeling numb and living in a void that you feel youll never escape from. What you do or dont have in life doesnt wave a magic wand over your mental health and make it better. In fact, material objects have zero impact on how you feel when living with depression. You could have all the money in the world, a large group of friends and the perfect job, but you can still feel alone and overwhelmed. Insinuating that someone is ungrateful for the life they have when suffering from something they have no control over is selfish. This may cause your friend or loved one to retreat, and stop sharing with you how they feel.
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What Not To Say: I Miss The Old You
These were actual words said to me when I was depressed, and they cut me pretty deep. Having depression is mentally draining, and as hard as it can be to watch someone you love going through depression, its much harder having to be the one living with it. Depression can steal your identity and make you feel alone, and therefore when people say things like this that acknowledge youre not yourself, it can really hurt. These words implied that I was unlovable, that I was hard work, and that it was tiresome being my friend when I had depression. My friend probably meant that she missed seeing me happy, but the words she used brought attention to the fact depression had made me someone I wasnt, and the fact that I had no control over this was hard to deal with.
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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Dont You Want To Get Better
This kind of statement implies that a depressed individual is at fault.
Depression can be tough to treat, and no medication or treatment is one hundred percent effective all the time, said Ross. Among many depressed patients there are already feelings they arent strong enough or good enough to fight the illness, and piling on with negative comments that imply they are in complete control of their well-being is destructive, adding to stigma, she said.
Other Sites That Can Help
www.atareira.org.nz – Support, education and information for family and whnau.Carers New Zealand – Information and support for people in caregiver roles.Mental Health Foundation – Information about mental health covering a range of topics.Small Steps – A range of simple tools you can use to manage your stress, anxiety and low mood.
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Brain Chemicals And Depression
Researchers have suggested that for some people, having too little of certain substances in the brain could contribute to depression. Restoring the balance of brain chemicals could help alleviate symptomswhich is where the different classes of antidepressant medications may come in.
Even with the help of medications that balance specific neurotransmitters in the brain, depression is a highly complex condition to treat. What proves to be an effective treatment for one person with depression may not work for someone else. Even something that has worked well for someone in the past may become less effective over time, or even stop working, for reasons researchers are still trying to understand.
Researchers continue to try to understand the mechanisms of depression, including brain chemicals, in hopes of finding explanations for these complexities and developing more effective treatments. Depression is a multi-faceted condition, but having an awareness of brain chemistry can be useful for medical and mental health professionals, researchers, and many people who have depression.
Depression Discussion Guide
Dont Shy Away From The Hard Stuff
One question many people avoid, but shouldnt, is asking the person whether theyve thought about hurting themselves. People worry about suicide contagionthe idea that you will plant the idea in someones head by asking about itbut theres no research showing this to be true, Bonior says. If a person does admit to having suicidal feelings, or you have reason to suspect they have based on their actions , you should not leave that person alone. Call for help from a mental health professional or a suicide hotline as soon as possible. Even if they resist it in the moment, its a forgivable act when its with the motivation of being supportive and protective, Dorfman says.
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What To Say Instead: Would You Like To Go For A Walk With Me
Stepping outdoors can be hard for someone with depression, so by suggesting they join you on a walk doesnt make it feel like youre trying to cure them of their depression. Ask your friend or loved one if theyd like to go for a walk with you and if they say no, accept this and dont ask again. You may find over time that you ask and they will accept, which is great.
Thank You For Trusting Me To Support You
It takes courage to let someone know that you have depression, and to let them in during a vulnerable time.
Let your loved one with depression know that their vulnerability is brave. Thank them for being open about their situation with you.
This may help build mutual respect and may truly comfort them. If theyre in a situation where they temporarily need your help, balancing the scales with an expression of gratitude for being among their trust circle may help by acknowledging its a two-way street.
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Can I Come Over And Hang Out
Levity can go a long ways, and a casual visit can help accomplish more than one thing.
One, your loved one might not be up for a group hang, but they may enjoy some one-on-one time to chat.
Two, you can help out with chores and housekeeping while youre there enjoying their company.
Keeping your environment generally organized and tidy may be among the first outward-facing things that slip when depression or anxiety worsen. This means that laundry and dishes might pile up.
This can be especially true when your loved one is also a caregiver of children or other people.
Dont make a show of helping out, and dont comment on how cleaning up will make them feel better. Just do what you can with their permission without seeking anything in return.
Be sure to ask and confirm a time before you show up. No one likes an unexpected visitor!
What You Can Say
For a long time, no one really talked about depression at all. Now were working hard to change that and we need to learn how to talk about depression in the right way. You cant help someone with depression in any meaningful way without talking to them about it. Thats why its so important to have the courage to speak up and find your words.
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Im So Glad You Told Me That Youre Thinking Of Suicide
When someone discloses suicidal thoughts, some parents, partners, friends and others react with anger , pain , or disbelief Some freak out. A suicidal person might then feel a need to comfort the hurt person, provide a defense to the angry person, or retreat internally from the disbelieving person. The person might regret ever having shared in the first place that they were thinking of suicide.
Wait Until It Feels Comfortable
Take your time and do it when it feels right. When you feel ready, the best way to start is to tell them you have something important that you want to talk about, so they know not to take the conversation lightly. Also, its important to be clear whether or not you want them to keep the information to themselves at this stage.
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Tips For Overcoming Depression
Depression can feel impossible. You donât have to give in to depression and think that things wonât get better. Instead, use these tips to improve your outlook:
- Get help from a mental health professional.
- Maintain activities that you once enjoyed.
- Keep up with friends and family members by talking regularly.
- Get some exercise, even if you just go for a short walk.
- Keep a routine of getting enough sleep and maintaining a healthy diet.
- Adjust your expectations so you can cope with depression.
- Donât drink or do drugs as a way of treating your depression.â
- Search for local depression resources.
This Is All In Your Head
A depressed mood happens because of circumstances that are not always easy to understand. Depression t is very real for a depressed person. They are not imagining how they are feeling, so it is not so easily summarized to say it is all in your head. There is more to depression than mindset. Genetics, circumstances, stress, environment, support network, and chemical makeup all contribute to how a person experiences a depressed mood.
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Take Their Feelings Seriously
If someone is living with a mental health concern, it isnt possible for them just to snap out of it, cheer up or forget about it. Acknowledge that what’s happening must be difficult to handle don’t tell them that their feelings are weird or unfounded.
Try not to approach your friend like theyre a patient or someone who needs to be fixed…this might make them feel embarrassed and belittled, and can make them close themselves off to you. Anzelmo
If youre not sure how to help someone with depression or anxiety, ask them. You could also offer them some options and let them choose what suits them best. For example, you could offer to listen and let them express their thoughts, or just to hang out, without serious conversation.
Try to be caring, compassionate and curious, and let them know that they matter to you and you are taking them seriously.
Assure Them They’re Not Weak Or Defective
Those who are coping with depression tend to feel weak or that there is something wrong with them. While depression is an illness, those who live with it may feel that it’s a character flaw.
Reassure your friend that depression really is an illness caused by a biochemical imbalance in the brain, and it does not mean that they are weak. In fact, it takes a great deal of strength to fight back, so they are probably much stronger than they think they are.
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Remind Them It’s Ok To Feel The Way They Feel
Even if your friend’s problems may seem minor to you, resist the urge to judge or come up with simple solutions. The biochemical imbalances associated with depression are what is driving how bad your friend feels about certain situationsnot necessarily the situations themselves.
Instead, let them know that you are sorry that they are feeling so badly and adopt an attitude of acceptance that this is how their depression is affecting them. If your friend only recently started taking medications or attending counseling, it can take time for them to begin to feel better.
Just as an antibiotic for strep throat takes a while to work, antidepressants can take some time to change chemicals in the brain .
During this time, what your friend needs most is not references to fast, easy solutions, but an awareness that you will be by their side through their treatment.
Simply Offer Your Presence
Conveying a sense of neutrality and non-judgment here is key, says Dorfman. Sometimes a person who is depressed wont feel like talking, but theyll find comfort in knowing people care. Sometimes that takes the form of physical presence, simply being in the same room with them. You might ask, Is it OK if I come to hang out with you? We dont have to talk Ill just be there. Communicating your ability to tolerate their feelings and experience is one way to show your support, adds Dorfman.
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Take As Long As You Need
For someone in a deep depression or even just an extremely low mood, seemingly easy tasks can feel overwhelming. Everyday things, such as taking a shower or cooking might seem too much to deal with, especially early in the day. Many people with depression feel their mood lifts towards the end of the day, so allowing them extra time to do these tasks is a good plan.