Monday, 19 January 2015

A word about depression

One of the stupidest, most condescending things anybody can say to someone with severe depression is "everything's going to be all right." It's even stupider than "get over it!" because at least that second one shows you don't have any faux-sympathy for the person in question.

Let me tell you something: saying "everything will be all right" means exactly nothing. It means nothing because everything is not going to be all right just because you say so, and both of you know it. It means nothing because you're just proving that you've never been in that situation and have no idea what it's like to be in that situation.

When someone's critically depressed, they don't want to hear false reassurances. They want to know that you're there for them, and by just letting them talk, putting an arm round their shoulder, letting them sob their hearts out on your neck you'll do more for them than any amount of pop psychology.

When one's really badly depressed, it's hard enough to keep oneself alive from day to day that one doesn't need "advice" and "comfort" from people who haven't the least idea what one's going through.

If you can't help a depressed person, don't make it worse. Leave them alone, that's the least you can do.


  1. Bill, here in Turkey, we say "Gecmis olsun" (May it pass") which has a very comforting effect. The fact is that, for the most of us, it's difficult for us to put ourselves in the place of others and thus, we can feel uncomfortable with a person who is suffering. Turkish is loaded with set phrases that can help one through such crises. But your advice is good, I think, for truly being able to comfort a seriously depressed person - genuine sympathy with sincere affection and letting the person know you're there for them will do the trick. Gecmis olsun.

  2. I've thought about this, and I suspect that "outsiders" say that sort of thing because there is a deep misunderstanding that equates depression and being sad. They're basically used as synonyms.

    They're not synonyms.

  3. I could write a book about things not to say. "Everything's going to be all right" would be at the top along with "Everything happens for a reason" "You just need to let it go" and other trash. Actually, some of these would get me out of depression just long enough to slap the speaker silly.


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