How to ruin your relationship with a depressed person in four easy steps.
Step 1: Ask them if they have tried not being depressed.
This is by far the stupidest thing you can do. A person suffering from depression has already tried this, probably for months or even years before they share their struggle with you.
Step 2: Tell them to think of all the things they have to not be depressed about.
Again, the sufferer has already tried this. In all likelihood, they have been beating themselves up because they have not been able to surpass their pain through this “method”. All comments like this do is reinforce the intrinsic feeling of failure and/or worthlessness they are already drowning in. Resulting in, guess what? Deeper depression.
Step 3: Tell them that their depression us the result of a lack of faith, or a weak character.
If you would like them to reject the faith they have, which is probably the one you share, this is the best method. There is very little that is quite as shaming as feeling that one is a failure in something one has probably grown up with, or that one is weak. As in step 2, this is a great way to drive the person into a deeper depression.
Bonus points for telling them it sounds like they are possessed by the devil.
Step 4: Tell them that all they need is more exercise or to take vitamins.
One of the hallmarks of depression is a serious lack of energy. Many depressed people must fight simply to get out of bed. Sometimes eating is a challenge, getting out of the house a near impossibility. At certain points, it can be a labor to take the next breath. No one who is losing the will to breathe is going to go to the gym or take up a new sport or diet. Telling them this is beyond unhelpful.
Lather, rinse, repeat.
These steps are particularly useful if the person is your child, your spouse, or a friend.
Depression is an illness. It is not a passing feeling, or a blue mood. No one wants you to take on their depression. Their depression is not a reflection on you. (By the way, if you think it is, you need to examine your own perspective of the distinction between you and the person. If you don’t think there is such a distinction, you may be suffering from a mental illness as well.)
The first step in helping a suffering loved one is to listen – with your mouth shut – and honor their feelings by not belittling or rejecting them. If you must speak, you can say “I am sorry that you are in pain.” Then shut your mouth again.
That is, if you want this person to remain a part of your life.