Talking About Depression

Talking About Depression - Learn about appropriate ways to discuss depression, including words and phrases you shouldn't use, like "snap out of it."

Communication is important in the best of times. When major depression factors into life, conversation has a vital role in the recovery process. A significant part of the journey back to health is depending on, and trusting, key people in your life. If you suspect or have been diagnosed with major depression, confide in your partner or spouse. While feelings of exhaustion and hopelessness are part of the illness, these symptoms are not an excuse to avoid sharing your circumstance. Understand, too, that even with your most trusted loved one, beginning the conversation may be difficult. To help you get started, consider these words:

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  • First, let your partner know this conversation is important to you. Choose a quiet time to talk, when you won't be interrupted. "I need to talk, and I need your full attention."
  • Be honest. It is perfectly acceptable to say: "I need your help," or "I am frightened," or "I don't know what to do."
  • If you are in a crisis, express this sense of urgency to your partner. Use the word, "Now," carefully and when it is truly necessary.
Not allowed:
  • Don't minimize your feelings. "It's not a big deal," is neither realistic nor honest. Not only are your feelings important, but also major depression should not be downplayed. Do not try to spare your partner the serious nature of this condition.
  • Apologies are not appropriate. "I'm sorry," would indicate you have a choice about your depression and research confirms this is not true.
Good Listeners, Appropriate Words

If a partner, family member, or friend comes to you and speaks of their depression, the proper response can make a world of difference in their trust. Remember, it's not your job to try and solve their problems or offer a cure. Instead, understanding and compassion are key. When you are taken into confidence, think about these words:
  • Offer support without giving advice. "I'm sorry you are going through this. What can I do to help?" "I can't really understand how you are feeling, but I am here for you, whenever you need me."
  • Be patient. Know that once treatment beings, it may be four to six weeks before any measurable improvement is evident. Let your friend or family member know you are there to encourage, offer simple diversions, and listen. "I know right now things are difficult, but this will pass, and we will get through it together."
  • Listen for signs of crisis. If you hear comments about suicide, or "wanting this all to be over," report them to your partner/friend's doctor or therapist, and clue in all caregivers.
Not allowed:
  • Do not utter the words, "Shrug it off," or "Cheer up."
  • Resist the urge to push too hard. "Stop moping around. Get over it and stop feeling sorry for yourself," is not an option for the depressed person.
In The Workplace

If you are employed, dealing with major depression and work can be a challenge. Enlist your doctor or therapist's help to determine what modifications you may need to make in schedule and workload to aid the recovery process. When you speak to your employer, be clear and concise in explaining the situation.
  • "I have a medical condition, and I am on the road back to health. I would like to discuss a few temporary changes to help me out along the way."
As an employer, if you notice an employee struggling with major depression, suggest your Employee Assistance Program if applicable. In addition, make all points clear and concise so there is no misunderstanding about expectations. An appropriate conversation might be positioned as:
  • "I understand you are struggling right now. I will do everything within my power to help you do your job. Please let me know how much information I need to assist you in this process." ( )

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