The Voice of Depression and How to Answer
Whether or not you have personal experience of depression you can still only speculate how depression feels to someone else. Your triggers may have been different. The depth, extent and nature of your depression may be different too. Yet, despite these differences there is sufficient in the way of shared emotional pain and patterns of thinking to allow us to offer advice and treatment.
If you support someone through depression you'll quickly come to realise that what the person says reflects the way they feel. The way they feel and think isn't something that passes quickly so you'll also notice the person repeating certain statements, maybe several times a day. They may have a firm belief that nobody can possibly feel or understand their burden. In turn, you may feel it places you in a difficult situation where if you say the wrong thing, or use the wrong words, you might worsen an already bad situation. Fortunately it doesn't really work like this. On an assumption your words aren't callous and hurtful, your attempts at support may not always seem to help, but they certainly won't harm.
But what are you meant to say when your friend or loved says they feel worthless and want to end it all? This is an example of a way of thinking that is typical with people who suffer from depression. What follows are a few other typical statements and suggestions as to how you might answer using a simple but effective technique. This is, never challenge the statement and always provide reassurance you are with them. For example:
I don't think I'm ever going to get better
You could reassure the person that while they feel this way now it's a path you will walk together, that you understand the fear and frustration they feel, but together you will see it through.
I'm just a weight around everyone's neck
You could say he or she feels this way because they are depressed. You could agree that life isn't easy (sometimes denial isn't helpful - a depressed person isn't stupid) but that this is a weight you can carry together.
What's the point of all this? It's just so meaningless!
This isn't the time to try and list all the reasons worth living for. You'll only get tangled up, grind to a halt or find yourself in a dispute. Let the person know you matter to them. Don't deny their right to feel this way and don't point out the reasons they should be grateful.
I just feel so alone right now
Again, don't deny the feeling by pressing home a contradictory message. Tell the person you know they feel alone but offer help and even ask their advice or thoughts on matters. People like to feel valued.
We both know I'm a failure
You know the form by now - don't compete with the statement. You might agree that it's hard when things don't work out as planned or hoped for but you are with them and you'll work through these feelings together.
This same basic strategy can be used for a wide variety of statements. Don't challenge the statement but accept it's how they feel. Then, point out they are loved and supported and you'll see this through togther.