Please be aware that this article may include triggers for some people suffering from mental illness 

Depression is a serious mental illness that claims the life of thousands each year. Despite that, many don’t even believe depression exists at all. Like seriously, in 2017 I can’t believe I am writing that! There seems to be a lot of arrogant people in the world who don’t like to believe in things unless they have been through it themselves. 

That said, some people just don’t understand. We aren’t taught about mental health in school, so it’s no wonder many don’t understand depression or about how to talk about it with others and especially to those who suffer from the illness themselves. 

If you suffer from depression, I almost guarantee that you have had at least one of the things below said to you, if not more. At uni, you are going to mix with a lot of different people and many of whom won’t understand your battle with depression. I hope by reading this it educates those who don’t suffer from depression about how to talk about mental illness sensitively with the someone struggling, without triggering them or making them worse. 

“ Depression is living in a body that fights to survive with a mind that tries to die  ”

1. “Cheer up”

This is the worst thing to say to anyone. Period. You don’t know what people are going through that they may not be sharing with you. Depression isn’t something which can just be cured by being told to “try to be happier” or “cheer up”. Telling someone with depression to cheer up isn’t going to make their life’s any easier. Don’t you think they would cheer up if they could? 

2. “You have nothing to be depressed about”

God damn, don’t you think I know? Sometimes depression can be caused by a particularly stressful time or situation* cough uni cough* but, other times, it’s brought on by nothing at all except a chemical imbalance in the brain. This is why PhD students get depression, multi-millionaires get depression, and normal folk all get depression.

3. “Have you tried going to bed earlier or eating healthier?”

Lifestyle changes do not cure depression. Yes, they can do wonders for some but they’re not a cure at all. If you suddenly start eating five fruit and veg a day, it doesn’t mean that your depression is going to automatically disappear. Active, fit and healthy people can still get depression, and they do all these things already. Don’t tell us that a night out with alcohol will fix our problems because it doesn’t take a genius to work out that it really won’t

4. “But you got out of bed, didn’t you?”

Yes, lots of people with depression don’t have the energy or motivation to get out of bed in the morning. But this isn’t the same for everyone with depression. Depression is very subjective and varies significantly depending on the person. The worst thing you can do is compare what you think depression is to someone with depression. Heads up! Don’t tell us just “to get on with it” because, surprise surprise, that isn’t going to help either!

5. “There are people worse off than you”

Thanks! Make me feel more guilty why don’t you? I know that there are people worse off than me. Everyone struggles with uni, the coursework, and the deadlines. People with depression know that there are people in the world who live below the poverty line, people who live in war-torn countries and those who don’t have basic sanitation and health care to live safely and happily, but depression can strike anyone.  

“ Mental illness does not discriminate so don't discriminate people who have a mental illness. ”

6. “Depression isn’t a real illness”

Depression is real, whether you want to believe it is or not. Just because you haven’t experienced it yourself or seen others close to you go through it, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Depression is an invisible illness but just because it’s invisible, it doesn’t mean it’s not real. Chances are you know someone who has or has been through some form of depression. Respect everyone, because pain isn’t always visible. 

Uni is a hard for every student, there is no denying that, but for those students who also struggle with their mental health, be it depression or another mental illness, they struggle with a double burden. 

Be a good egg, yeah? Think before you speak and, do me a favour, don’t every say any of these things to your ‘depressed’ flatmate, whether you know they have depression or not. Just be kind. 

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Written by Nicole Woodward, 8 months ago
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