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Some Really Dumb Advice On Helping Others Deal With Depression

September 24, 2010 · 102 comments

in Commentary, Health & Fitness

I was reading CNN.com the other day, and I came across an article regarding depression in the Health section.  The intent of the article was to help people understand how to help friends and family members who suffer from depression.  However, I found the suggestions regarding what ‘not to say’ to someone who is depressed to be simply ridiculous.   I am listing each of their suggestions, followed by my snarky commentary about their ‘advice’.

  1. “Stop feeling sorry for yourself.” (Please!  Like my depressed friend is going to be telling me what she is upset about and I am just going to start lecturing her about self-pity.  If I do that, then they should just boot me from their life.)
  2. “There is always someone worse off than you are.” (I do hate when you are upset about something and someone then has to launch into how bad THEIR situation is, and therefore ends up minimizing your feelings.  I agree with the essense of this one- people need to just listen and shut up, and remember than everything is not about them.)
  3. “No one ever said life was fair.” (I cannot imagine someone talking to me about their problems and then just replying ‘oh well, life ain’t fair.  Move on.’  Really, who would do that?  You might think it, but would you say it?)
  4. “So you are depressed.  Aren’t you always?” (More common sense here.  Doubt any friend would say something so stupid.  Who would ever deem this type of advice as helpful?)
  5. “Try not to be depressed.” (The article also recommended that you say ‘We are not on this earth to see through one another, but to see one another through.’ instead.)  (OK, I think most people in the world know that you can’t just turn depression off, except Tom Cruise.  However, if I said what the article suggested, that we shouldn’t see through one another and such, my friends would just start making fun of me.  Deservedly so.)
  6. “It’s your own fault.” (I love this one, how classic.  How could depression be your own fault?  Whoever would say something like this should just stay away from society in general.  Anyone that would suggest that this might be a common reaction to depression probably shouldn’t write articles anymore.)
  7. “Believe me, I know how you feel. I was depressed once for several days.” (This ties back to my previous comment.  I can totally see some people saying something stupid like this because they love to talk about themselves.  That is another pet peeve of mine – people showing fake empathy so they can then jabber on about what they have been through.)
  8. “I think your depression is a way of punishing us.” (What does this even mean?  Someone would choose to be depressed so they could hurt a friendship, marriage, whatever?  I think they are really reaching to get a top 10 list here.)
  9. “Haven’t you grown tired of all this “me, me, me” stuff yet?” (Sounds like any dummy that would say this really means ‘me, me, me’ about themselves.  Again, not a realistic comment.)
  10. “Have you tried chamomile tea?” (This was the ‘not to’ way to say that you will always be there for the person who is depressed.  What?  Go drink tea?  I would think if you were trying to get the point across that you would stick by the depressed person no matter what, you would NOT want to say ‘call me when you are better’.  Chamomile tea?  Who wrote this article?  The ‘not to’ response wasn’t in regards to depression treatments.)

Even though I have been critical of the article, I appreciate the thought- people need to be supportive of those suffering from depression.  However, I found I couldn’t even learn anything from the article because the ‘not to’ advice was so ludicrous.  I am wondering if the author maybe spends too much time around sociopaths?

Time for my chamomile tea!

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{ 101 comments… read them below or add one }

Roshawn @ Watson Inc September 24, 2010 at 8:42 am

Kris, you are right that some of these “not-to” say things are totally ludicrous. Some people are surprising tactless and quite narcissistic as well. I would not be surprised to hear at least some of these things said without much thought, as unfortunate as it would be.

Don’t diss the tea, its quite yummy 🙂

Reply

Kris September 24, 2010 at 9:03 am

Oh, I am not dissin’ the tea at all! I am dissin’ that the author of the article would just tell someone to drink some tea as opposed to saying ‘I will help you through this’.

For example:
Depressed person: “I am really depressed and I feel so alone sometimes. Everyone else seem so happy and life is hard for me”

Tactless friend: “Go drink some chamomile tea”

That just makes no sense to me. I think tea is a great idea, just not in the context the author wrote. It was mockery of the writer, not the tea drinker!

Reply

Roshawn @ Watson Inc September 24, 2010 at 10:15 am

Oh, I was just just trying to make a funny. I got your point LOL.

Reply

Nicole September 24, 2010 at 8:56 am

People do say ALL of those things. You should hear what they say when someone has had a miscarriage.

Reply

Kris September 24, 2010 at 9:06 am

Nicole – I do agree that there are a lot of tactless folks out there, but I think the author could have done a better job making it more realistic and tailor the article more toward normal people, not narcissists.

Reply

Nicole September 24, 2010 at 11:17 am

I dunno, I think the article is pretty darn realistic. Except #8, which I’ve never seen before.

Rather than chamomile tea, usually what I see recommended is St. John’s Wort. Or healing crystals. Or homeopathy. Or a dozen other bizarre remedies. Maybe I should stop reading mother’s forums.

Reply

Little House September 24, 2010 at 9:55 am

If they had to come up with a “what not to say” article it means people say and hear these comments all the time! That’s ridiculous. I’m not a psychologist, but I would probably recommend one if a friend suffered clinical depression. I’m not a big proponent of drugs, but sometimes counseling is a necessity!

Reply

Kris September 24, 2010 at 10:35 am

I totally agree Little House. I know many people that have greatly benefited from drugs and from counseling. The brain is a funny thing, and it is surprising how little we really understand about it.

Reply

Squirrelers September 24, 2010 at 1:00 pm

Yeah, much of that “advice” in the article seems like it would be insensitive. I agree with you, Kris.

Perhaps what someone who is depressed needs is to be heard, and to know that certain people really care about the depressed person’s feelings and emotions. Maybe that’s a source of strength?

The lame advice the article gives basically trivializes the depressed person’s feelings, or turns the tables on them and make it seem like he or she is actually selfish! Some of what was said makes sense, but much of it doesn’t. It just doesn’t seem like that article was written with enough introspection.

Reply

Money Reasons September 24, 2010 at 7:26 pm

I like the tea because even though it might not have an real chemical effect, at least it will give them hope, and it might work as a placebo to get the depressed person out of their slump. Sometimes it helps knowing that others care 🙂

I think most of the other suggestions are silly though. It’s almost like the author was guessing what would work…

I think a better approach would be to talk to a friend and try to find out if there is one particular cause of the depression or if it’s chemical. If there is one particular cause, it might be possible to create a workaround or nullify the problem.

Reply

The Biz of Life September 24, 2010 at 10:14 pm

Usually a heavy dose of country music along with a 6-pack help pull me out a funk. No way my life can be as miserable as those people in the songs.

Reply

Ramona September 25, 2010 at 12:49 pm

I do hope that article was a ‘joke’ since, even if I am not too informed about depression, I do doubt these words would actually help. My god, this would be a blatant lack of tact.

Reply

Heather September 27, 2010 at 8:32 pm

You’d be surprised…

When I was going through cancer (which is not the same, but it still falls under “people say stupid things”), people said some amazing things. The local young adult cancer survivor group came up with a whole list of things — “Someone really said that to you?!” We all had them.

Reply

Al July 27, 2011 at 8:01 pm

As ‘unrealistic’ as it may be (to say to someone with depression), I’ve actually heard them all… or variations of them. Some people ARE really that insensitive or uninformed about depression.

I guess they don’t understand what we’re going thru and are just trying to relate to us or offer advice that worked for them.

Thanks for your snarky comments though. They made me laugh. 🙂

Reply

Kris July 27, 2011 at 10:08 pm

Al, that is terrible that people have actually said such ridiculous things to you.

I think depression is one of those things people just don’t understand unless they have experienced it themselves. I wish the general public was more understanding when it came to issues of the brain.

Thanks for visiting.

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