When dealing with one who is depressed, it is easy to resort to using trite statements. Other ones that often come up are “try not to be so depressed,” “just snap out of it,” and “stop feeling sorry for yourself.” All of these end up hurting more than helping. These statements show a misunderstanding of what depression truly is. No one chooses to be depressed. Depression is a real illness that severely impacts the chemistry of the brain. This often manifests itself through various behavioural, emotional, physical, and cognitive symptoms.
Things Could Be Worse
Or “there’s always someone worse off than you are.” This will only exacerbate guilt in their mind. For someone who is depressed, even trials that may appear to be petty can be hard for them to deal with. Don’t belittle their problems. Use this as an opportunity to show that you support them no matter what. Make sure your statements are genuine, especially when you offer a listening ear or prayer for such an individual.
I Know How You Feel
This one usually comes from a good place but, once again, isn’t the least bit comforting to one who is battling depression. In this case, people often confuse feelings of temporary sadness with depression. It isn’t possible to fully understand how the person may feel unless you have the ability to completely enter into their mind. Of course, no one can do this but God. What you can say instead is “I can’t imagine how you must feel.” Continue to cultivate trust in their relationship. This in turn will encourage them to open up their thoughts and feelings with you. When they do, although you may not always understand their situation, you must learn to empathize with them. Pray and ask God to give you divine discernment.
It’s Your Own Fault
Anything that in any way inflicts blame on the individual who is depressed or implies that they may be suffering for their sins should not be encouraged. In many cases, the person who is depressed is already dealing with feelings of guilt, self-blame, and remorse. While there may have been sins committed by or against them that could have triggered their depression, it is not your place to condemn them. For example, think of the story of the “woman caught in adultery” (John 8:1-11). Although she had committed a grievous sin, Jesus, the only one Who could pass judgment, does not and instead shows her love and mercy. We are called to do the same. In contrast, Job’s friends add salt to an open wound (Job 4:7-8; Job 8:1-6, 12-20; Job 11:1-6, 14-17).
Have You Tried…
Everyone wants to see their hurting loved ones get better; there is no doubt about that. However, unsolicited counsel isn’t wise to give in these cases. If you know someone who is depressed, don’t try to prescribe or offer a solution. For one who is battling depression to the severest degree, the best thing they can do is seek professional help as quickly as possible.
Originally Published: Faith In the News