Learning what to say to someone who is distraught doesn’t always come naturally. This list that follows gives you an idea of what statements that may come quickly to mind should be avoided at all costs!
A friend, colleague, coworker, family member or other loved one has just revealed to you that they are despondent, depressed or even having suicidal thoughts. Often, iin such situations, we are unsure of how to respond. The following list tells you what NOT to say, even if you find the words on the tip of your tongue.
” Oh my gosh, I was depressed once, too, when I realized I weighed 12 pounds more than I had when I was in college”.
“Can’t you just watch a funny movie and snap out of it?”
“Let’s go take a walk, you’ll fell better if you get some fresh air”.
“You always have been way too sensitive”.
“Boy this is really uncomfortable- let’s talk about something else”.
“Let’s go get a beer and think about other things”.
“Have you tried prayer?”
“I knew a guy who knew a guy who killed himself once, and it was awful for his poor family”.
“Now you’re just sounding crazy”.
What CAN you do or say that may be helpful? First of all listen, without being judgemental, and offer emotional support. If the individual is in imminent risk of hurting themselves or someone else, don’t try to cope with this on your own- call 911. Listening without minimizing the feelings of the person who is depressed is probably the most helpful thing that you can do at the time, and then as they are feeling more comfortable talking to you, it is important that you encourage them to seek professional help- explain that it is not that you don’t care, or don’t want to listen, but that you aren’t capable of giving them all of the help that they need. Other than suggesting professional help, avoid making suggestions or giving advice, at all costs.
There is hope out there, and plenty of professional therapists and psychiatrists are available to treat the mental illnesses that are so common in our society. But it is vital that the person who is revealing their pain to you know that when their treatment is completed- you will still be there.