A basic guide to depression

What is depression?

Depression is a mood disorder, and there are many different types of depression. Here is a brief description by Counselling Psychologist, Nicholas Voisin, of the various types of depression that exist.

What is #notokay to say / do

to someone with depression

``Just get over it``

Being told to just get over it is one of the most common things people with depression hear. But it’s not helpful at all, because depression is not something someone can “just get over”. Many people with depression try their absolute best to overcome it. Depression is not a choice.

Telling them they're lazy

People with depression are not lazy. Depression can cause fatigue or low energy. Telling someone with depression that they are lazy can make them feel worse when they’re already struggling.

``Other people have it worse``

“Other people have it worse” or any kind of comparing statements can make someone with depression feel worse or guilty about what they’re going through, and they’re #notokay to make. Understand that while someone else may have it “worse”, someone with depression is struggling, too, and their struggles or feelings are valid.

Assuming children can't be depressed

Depression doesn’t just affect adults: it affects adolescents and children too. It’s #notokay to tell children with depression that they are “ungrateful” or “too happy” or they should be happy because they “have a roof over their head and food in the fridge”. Depression in your children should be taken seriously. Dismissing a child who says they have depression can lead to them not getting the help they need or not opening up to you about what they’re going through in the future, and can make them feel worse ontop of how they’re already feeling.

Telling them they have nothing to be depressed about

Depression is not a choice, and anyone can experience depression, no matter what they have. Telling someone they have no real reason to be depressed is dismissive, and is not likely to help them. Instead, understand that that person is not choosing to be depressed and your support is more likely to go a long way in helping them feel better than your judgment.

Assuming depression is just sadness

Depression is a lot more than just sadness. Depression can affect the way you feel about yourself, your ability to function, and a lot more. Depression is a serious condition, and it’s #notokay to assume that somebody with depression is just a little bit sad.

Telling them they're weak

Depression has nothing at all to do with weakness or strength. Anyone at all can be affected by depression. Just like a physical illness has nothing to do with being strong, a mental illness has absolutely nothing to do with how strong you are. In fact, people who experience depression are extremely strong for navigating life with this extra burden that makes life harder for them.

What you can do / say

Be sensitive and kind

Being sensitive, kind, nonjudgmental and compassion can go a long way with helping someone who is depressed. Actively listen if they tell you what’s going on. Validate their experiences, even if you don’t understand them or can’t relate. Some validating statements sound like “that sounds like it must be hard”, “I’m proud of you for how hard you’re trying”, “I think you’re really brave”, “this must be a really tough experience”, “it’s okay to not always be positive or cheerful”, “you’re doing the best you can”. Don’t pressure or force them to tell you what’s wrong. Don’t try to “fix” things for them or force them to do things you believe will help, but do offer support in ways they may need, or ask how you can support them. Also remember to keep checking in with them: understand that even if someone seems to be okay after a while, it doesn’t mean they may not still be struggling. Depression does not have a “look”. Don’t assume that they’re okay based on how they look.

Kindly encourage them to seek professional help

One of the ways we can help is to encourage them to speak to a mental health care provider, without judgment or condescension. We can, also, offer to find someone for them  to speak to, and even go with them. Click below to be taken to the directory where there are many links under the “online resources” section that can direct you to more resources that can help you learn more about depression.

What does depression feel like?

If you have no idea what someone with depression is like, read stories from people with lived experience of depression describing what depression feels like.

Who can depression affect?

Listen to Clinical Psychotherapist, Reycine McKenzie, shed some light on who depression can affect.