As I have observed here staying quiet and listening can be one of the best responses we make to those in need. Notwithstanding that it is good to show our interest in others by actually speaking to them, being quiet and listening is vital. With depressed people we can so easily think that we have to give our advice to seek to give them help. In such a situation we can blurt out all kinds of unhelpful things. So here are some things not to say to the depressed:
Just Relax – “I would love to be able to do that; to just relax and feel my being eased. Don’t you think I want to be relaxed!” is how the depressed person would want to respond to this. A far better way is to know the person and to guide them into the ways that help them to relax.
You’re better off than a lot of other people – to which the depressed person may well say: “I know that I am, but that does not alleviate the pain that I am feeling.” When dealing with depressed people you need to know that at the heart of the experience of depression is that of a mental dysfunction. Physical and circumstantial re-arrangements may have little impact upon their mental and emotional well-being. Their circumstances may be far better than that of others, but that is not the issue
You need to get better sleep. “If only I could! I would love to be sleeping better. However, I am so mangled with stress that sleep is so often elusive. And then there is that waking up with a feeling of hopelessness and disarray.” So says or thinks the one assailed with depression.
How are your wife and family coping with your depression? – “Oh no I’m not just in a mess myself, but i am causing all kinds of difficulties for my family” thinks the depressed person. Ask the family directly, if it is appropriate, about how they are getting on, would be a better approach in exercising your care for the family.
Cheer Up – “Oh I do wish I could be brighter and not so deflated by life, but it’s not just about cheering up.”
Pull yourself together. “If only I could. I would love to be back together like I have been in the past. But my being is now in a state of disrepair and I can’t get things together.”
Christians should not get depressed – Urrh, what about Elijah then in 1 Kings 19? The man who had it all together in facing the prophets of Baal in chapter 18 is now in disarray under the broom tree. So we read: But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” (1 Kings 18:4). And what of the soul’s cast downcast condition related by the sons of Korah in Psalm 42? Is that not depression?
Christians should not take medication for depression. This may be true for some people who have a variety of depression that is more appropriately dealt with by counselling or lifestyle changes. However, for many the chemical imbalance that leads to reduced serotonin levels is appropriately dealt with through medication.
- please do not shun people with depression and do not feel you have to avoid the subject when speaking with them. However, do be careful with what you say.
- remember that depressed people likely do not have a great capacity for interacting about matters, so short times with them is probably best for them.
- before you say anything pray to the Lord for wisdom.