When I struggled with depression, one thing said to me a lot was “I have no idea what to say.” Now that I’m in a better place, I thought it’d be a good time to make a list of 10 things I wish someone had said to me while I was thinking about suicide and battling depression. I’m not a doctor — just a struggling kid with a voice and hope to help. Take it for what it’s worth.
1. I can’t even imagine what you’re going through.
I loved hearing this because it meant the person was honest. When I was in the midst of my depression, I didn’t need a doctor to tell me about my problems. I just needed a friend to show me this world still had love, that there was still something worth living for. When my friend told me they didn’t understand, it meant that they didn’t have an agenda other than love. Friends like that keep you alive through the darkest nights.
2. If you want, I’ll go with you.
When someone told me I should get help, it basically affirmed how alone I was in my struggle. Telling someone “Hey, if I found a doctor, would you go with me just to hear what he has to say?” shows them that you’re in it, too. The big lie depression tells you is that you’re alone, so when you make the offer to go with them, you’re showing support and love.
3. I love you.
Not the “happy” them. Not the “funny” them. Not the “successful” or “employed” them. Just them. Exactly how they are.
4. You’re doing awesome.
Celebrate the little things. Sometimes leaving your room when you’re depressed is hard. Sometimes breathing is hard. Celebrate the little things without pushing for more.
5. You make sense.
Depression tells you you’re crazy. I went to see a doctor about my depression, and they told me, “We don’t deal with mentally ill people.” This made me feel highly contagious and untouchable. Truth is, I’m not alone, and neither is anyone else. It’s important to remind people they’re not crazy, that depression is a real thing, that the world is a dark place that can wear on you. It doesn’t mean you stay down, but depression doesn’t have to be some synonym for crazy or unwanted.
6. Sometimes being sad is OK.
Depression can bring a lot of guilt and feelings of failure. Fight this by reminding them that it’s OK to be sad. Our world sucks. People hurt, bad things happen to kind hearts, the innocent are persecuted while wicked people become billionaires … the world is not fair. Now, it’s important to remember this fact may get us down, but it doesn’t have to RUN our lives. Everyone has to find ways to fight through, but there are times where sensitive and compassionate people are going to get depressed for very valid reasons. It’s important to not let them just skip over these emotions. God gave many people deeply compassionate hearts; they shouldn’t have to numb them to avoid being depressed. If a heart doesn’t hurt when it sees tragedy, how can it truly acknowledge and love beauty?
7. Thank you for telling me you’re struggling.
Confessing sucks. Make a big deal out of how awesome it is they trusted you enough to tell you, because guess what? It is a big deal. If they feel like their confession meant a lot to you, they’ll be more comfortable doing it in the future when things go bad again—and it could save their lives.
8. God loves us in all emotions.
There were times when I felt like I wasn’t a “good Christian” because I was battling depression. Lies like “If you loved Jesus, you wouldn’t be so sad” and “You’re wasting God’s gift of life” filled my head and made me feel like more of a failure. God loves me in my depression. My life was never “mine” to save. The cross took that burden. I’m not a failure; I’m a struggling human just like everyone else who is free from the guilt of Satan. Any burden I put on myself to perform or “just do it” isn’t from God.
9. Will you try?
This seems simple, but I felt a lot of people telling me to go do things and what would work, which put so much pressure on me. What if it didn’t work? One way people get help is through counseling — well, I’ve had some BAAAAAD counselors. Does that mean I’m just too depressed for help? Counselors are people who make mistakes, too. Asking people to just try things means it’s OK if it doesn’t work; we’ll just try something else. “Are you willing to try…” is more likely to get a “yes” than “You know you should do…”.
10. Depression isn’t the same for everyone.
This meant I was free to be unique in my struggles. Depression is such a weird disease, and it looks different from person to person, so it’s OK if something worked for them and not for me. Acknowledging the mystery of depression freed me from expecting a quick fix and being disappointed.
Just like people battling depression, the people trying to help them need and deserve grace, too. It’s tough, and it’s hard to be an advocate. Make sure you have emotional support, as well, someone to cheer you on as you try and help your friend out of depression. The end goal isn’t to “fix” someone but to encourage them to use the experience as fuel for a functioning and healthy lifestyle. Sometimes meds help, sometimes counselors do the trick; as I said, I’m not a doctor, and I don’t believe there’s a one-size-fits-all cure, but there is Jesus. He loves you, He fights for you and He grieves with you and your struggling friends. It may not cure anything, but it does give us endless hope — and that’s worth fighting for.