Deep, Dark, Depression, Do’s, and Dont’s

Some people no longer feel joy doing the things that used to make them happy. Eventually, they find it difficult to even find a reason to exist…

If you are not personally struggling with depression, I’m quite sure you know someone who is and you’re not sure how to help. Depressed people are oftentimes told ‘’don’t kill yourself because you’re such a great person”. That advice is, unfortunately, bullshit.

There are a lot more mistakes that you can respond to the depressed person that instead of being a help, would make them want to kill themselves even more. These includes changing the topic, making a joke, or saying nothing at all, and worse — asking them why they want to kill themselves as if it’s a foolish thing. These horrible reactions are the reason why a depressed person thinks that reaching out to people sucks.

I’m not a doctor, I’m just someone who happens to have a lengthy experience of dealing with depressed and suicidal people, most of whom I love. I can tell you that even if you do all of the things you read here, your friend will probably still need to work through a lot of hell. And it is never your fault if your friend still ends up hurting himself. But dude, believe me, saying the right things instead of the wrong things make a hell lot of a difference.

Here are 5 ways on how to deal with friends having bone-deep tiredness in life:

  1. Don’t pretend you understand if you don’t.

The problem is you think you understand because you’ve been sad, and you relate it with your experiences with sadness, believing it’s the same. But sadness is not depression, and depression is not just being sad. If you haven’t been through real clinical depression, you don’t understand. Depression is much deeper and darker than sadness, and it doesn’t get better with the usual “everything-will-be-okay” advice. You give advice that drives your friend deeper into depression because they can’t do the things that have helped you overcome your short-term shot of sadness.

Saying “I know what you mean!” can do more harm than good. You don’t know what it’s like to be that specific person. If you’re not sure what to say, just tell them “I don’t know what to say”. It is way better than joking or making a quick subject change or not saying anything at all, all of which can be hurtful. Maybe you don’t need to say a lot anyway. Maybe you just need to listen. And bring food. Lots and lots of food.

  1. Tell them you are worried about them and you don’t want them to die.

Suicidal people thinks that people do not understand the unbearable amount of pain they are going through to want to end their life. Tell them you hear them and you are worried. This simple expression of empathy can go a long way in validating the person’s pain and soothing a sense of alone-ness. No statement denying or minimizing the person’s pain like “Oh it’s not so bad” and “you’re still luckier than most people”.

You may ask them “what’s going on that makes you want to die?” This establishes a sense of connection and invites the suicidal person to tell their story. Refrain from immediately trying to fix the situation or make the person feel better. These efforts may be well-intended but it can halt the conversation. Let the person tell their story. And then, listen. Really listen. This shows that you really want to understand. Show empathy and understanding too by saying things like “that sounds awful” or “I can see why that’s painful.” Just make sure your statement won’t stop the person from talking further about suicide.

Tell them you don’t want them to die. You might think it’s obvious but it’s not obvious for them. No matter how much they want to die, hearing someone they know say they don’t want them to die is really something, and can be a turning point.

And don’t even say “Don’t die. I have no more friend to hang out with” which makes it about you and not them. They don’t really care how they can help better your life because theirs is really painful right now. Don’t tell them they are unfair for leaving you. This is not about you. It’s all about framing it.

  1. Understand their planned suicide method.

Many suicidal people will also disclose their planned suicide method, that‘s why I learned so many suicide methods that could have been successful if I failed to do something. On the onset of depression, one can already formulate steps how to kill himself. Most common and readily available methods are wrist cutting and hanging.

Aside from listening, you also have the moral obligation to exert efforts to keep the person safe. Once you know their planned method, it will be easier for you to keep them away from executing it.

One proven way to prevent them from executing their planned suicide method is to never let them be alone. Isolation can be very dangerous. Help them engage in doing something else to make stay away from the act until the danger of suicide goes down. If you are feeling solely responsible for keeping the person alive, it’s best to involve others too.

  1. Go hang out with them.

When I was depressed, I just wanted someone to come over and sit next to me. We didn’t even have to do anything. I just wanted them there. When you said “I’m just here for you”, literally just be there for them.

Bring them something that shows you’re thinking of them. Invite them over for a food. Provide companionship and remind them there are still good things in the world and you care. Remind them the good things you’ve been through and the good things you are looking forward to experience with them. Most depressed people improve if they simply have a friend to spend time with.

Once they are finally in the process of getting “well”. Tell them “I’m proud of you” and make it clear that you will always be there. You may be the anchor that keeps them holding on to this life at a crucial time. Just bear in mind that while dealing with suicidal people, it’s more important to listen than respond. Offer unconditional support. Let them know you will be there for them no matter how long it takes for them to feel better.

  1. Reach out to them if they haven’t reached out to you.

Remember, they do not initiate reaching out because depression makes them want to be alone in the world they think no one understands. And oftentimes, someone who has suicidal thoughts senses from others an expectation to “get over it already.” When you pressure them to “get over” with that depression, that’s when they start thinking, “I’m a burden. They would be better off without me.” That escalates the risk of suicide even more.

Maybe your friend posted unusual Facebook status, but you can sense that something is seriously wrong. Call them up. Tell them you noticed it, you’re worried, and you’re there if they need to talk. If they are unreachable or doesn’t answer, that’s when you might have to check them out with their family in their house. Just like what I did.

* * *

No actual research proves the most effective things for us to say to a suicidal person, so experiences are the best we’ve got so far. Results may vary according to different people’s needs and personalities. But these things are worth a try and can literally be a “life hack”.

When someone is suicidal, you need to get them through that one single moment. Then, when you’ve gotten through that moment, you need to get them through the next moment, and so on, until they begin to see their value again.

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