Do you have a gnawing suspicion that someone you know or care about is not feeling their usual self? It could be a friend, a neighbor, a colleague, or a family member. Maybe they come off as acting odd or sounding irritated or getting reclusive? Or they may simply not be their regular selves. If your gut feeling is that they are having a rough time, trust your instinct and reach out to help them. But before taking that step, do you know how to talk to someone with depression?
Here are some important pointers, compiled by psychologists that will help you to understand how to talk to someone with depression or other emotional issues.
People with depression usually go into a shell and may not share what they are going through voluntarily. If you wish to help someone whom you think is going through an emotional low, this post will help you understand when and how to inquire, “Are you okay?” and what to do if they are not OK.
Before we go into details, it will be useful to update yourself about the symptoms of depression, click here.
How to talk to someone with Depression
R U OK?
When you suspect someone to not feeling emotionally well, you might encourage them to open up by striking up a conversation and mentioning the changes you’ve observed in them. You may then ask them empathically,” Are you OK?” Instead of asking,” How are you?” , which leaves space for them to give a non-committed answer.
When they say – I’m NOT OK
If they confess that they are not OK, you can use these conversational guidelines to make them feel supported and assist them in developing some coping systems. If they respond positively, that person will realize you care enough about them to inquire.
Are you Prepared?
Before learning how to talk to a person with depression, it is important to know if you are mentally ready to do so.
The following questions will help you to determine if you’re prepared to start a meaningful conversation:
1.Am I in a decent frame of mind?
2. Am I willing to listen?
3. Can I give the necessary amount of time?
4.Will there be privacy and comfort for the concerned person to talk comfortably?
5.Have you chosen a time that will be ideal for them to talk?
If the answer to the above questions is affirmative, then you and the person are both in the right mental and physical framework to talk about their issues.
Some Possible Outcomes when you ask – R U OK
Now that you have got the conditions right, you have to bear some important facts in mind before you learn how to talk to someone with depression.
1.Realize this fact and be prepared that someone may reply, “No, I’m not OK” when you inquire if they are OK.
2.Understand that you may be unable to “fix” someone’s issues however good your intentions be.
3. Acknowledge the possibility that they may not be prepared to talk or they may not wish to talk to you.
How to talk to someone with depression-Be a Good Listener
A good listener is an active listener. Here is how to be an active listener.
- Take them seriously and don’t interrupt or rush the conversation. Do not brush off their concerns as being small or baseless.
- Don’t be judgmental. Acknowledge that things seem tough from their point of view.
- If they need time to think, sit patiently and let them start the conversation again. Don’t nudge them unless they seem to go silent for a long time.
- Encourage them to open up by saying things like: “How are you feeling about that?” or “How long have you felt that way?”
- Show that you are listening actively by rephrasing their words and repeating them back and Ask them if you have understood them properly.
Encourage them to take action and feel empowered by saying these things
- Ask: “What have you done in the past to manage similar situations?”
- Request: “How would you like me to support you?”
- Ask: “What’s something you can do for yourself right now? What makes you happy and relaxed?”
- You could say: “This is what I did when I was going through difficult phase myself… maybe it can help you too.”
- If they’ve been feeling low for more than 2 weeks, encourage them to see a health professional. You could say, “Connecting with someone who is an expert might help. I will be happy to help you connect with the right professional.”
- Remove the negativity around seeking the help of a mental health professional in getting through tough times.
The most challenging part is how to talk to someone with depression. Once you have breached that barrier and they can talk about their feelings; you can further make them feel that they are cared for by checking on them regularly.
These are some of the best ways to check on them
- Pop a reminder in your diary to call them in a couple of weeks. If you feel they’re struggling, follow up with them sooner.
- You may say, “Since our last conversation, I have been thinking of you and wanted to see how have you been doing ?”
- Enquire if they have come up with a better solution to their problem by asking them. Don’t judge them if they haven’t done anything. Perhaps all that person needs right now is someone to listen to them.
- Maintain contact and be available to them. Genuine concern and a caring attitude can change things for a person with depression.
This post is my contribution to Blogchatter’s #CauseAChatter initiative about #MentalHealth
#SuicidePreventionAwarenessMonth #Depression #HowtoTalktoSomeoneWithDepression #HaleHeartyHealthy
(Images designed on Canva)
17 responses to “How to Talk to someone with Depression – Beyond R U OK”
Wow . This is the need of the hour n you really have put it in simple words for everyone reading this to understand. This is something any of us can do to help. Thank you for sharing with all of us.
According to me, point Are you prepared is so important when we are going to ask anyone with depression about if they are okay. Because it is not just a question. It’s an unsaid message to the person that they are ready to listen to them. And I also liked follow up call point. We have to make them feel safe and assured that we didn’t disappear.
It’s so important to choose the right words when talking to a depressed person and important is to be a great listener.
Listening, empathy and company are key components of helping someone who is depressed. An online friend saved me when locally no one responded. I would have killed myself. That’s how important it is to understand depression.
Help can come from least expected quarters, it was important that you tried to save yourself by reaching out. I am glad that things worked out for you.
This is a great piece of advice by you. we read many articles that focus on dealing with depression but it is rare to get advice on things when we have to talk with the people who are suffering from depression. listening and keeping an empathetic attitude is most important to make them feel supported.
Thank you Dr Surbhi
Very well explained. People who are suffering from depression just need an ear. There is a time when they just want someone who can listen without being judgemental or without giving any kind if advice.
This is such a sensitive issue and proper communication can definitely relieve one’s worries and help them come out of their fears. You have explained some great ways.
I am happy that you find it informative.
This is a thoughtful article. indeed it is important to know what to say to someone when they are depressed, and not inadvertently trigger them or make it worse.
I am glad you liked it.
People who are suffering from depression just need an ear.This is sensitive issue
Not always, sometimes they will need professional help and medication, but listening is the first step.
As a person who went through quite a few bouts of depression, I know how important is support from those who care. These are valuable tips.
To come out of depression needs courage and work. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and appreciating!