I’ve been getting several questions about how to talk to someone about depression, especially premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). I’ll give you as many ideas as I can. Above all, I would say to keep it simple and stay emotionally calm. Be prepared before you start, but you don’t have to recite a long monologue to get the conversation going.
Consider Their Perspective
They are likely feeling rejected or that they might be rejected. When you have any form of depression, you tend to feel like the world is against you. Just consider this before you say something so your compassion really comes through.
Acknowledge That Their Feelings Are Significant
Be sure you don’t trivialize what you’ve seen. If it’s pretty dramatic, then don’t describe it as having “a couple of down days.” When you have seen a pattern, such as with PMDD, say so. Mention how this must be difficult for them to experience such strong upsetting feelings over and over. Tell them that you are concerned to see them so upset, so sad, feeling so much despair, or whatever feelings you’ve seen.
Tell Them “I’m Here For You”
Make sure they know you are there to support and help them. Honestly, you may not know what would be helpful, but sometimes just saying this with sincerity can relax the other person a little. Be patient. Sometimes a person with depression or another mental health problem doesn’t accept a gesture of help right away.
They may not feel deserving. They may not understand what is going on in their own mind. They may be in some denial that something is even wrong (to protect themselves). They may have been chastised in the past for being vulnerable. There could be many reasons for their reaction. However they respond to you, take it for face value and be patient. You might try again another time, but see if they come talk to you first.
Talking About Depression Can Be Challenging
I’ll consider more ways you can talk with someone about depression and PMDD in particular. For now, this is a good place to start. If anyone wants to share their own experiences with this (from either perspective), please add your comments below. I’ll add them in my next post on this topic if I can.
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From Psych Central's website:
PsychCentral (August 3, 2010)
What You Need to Know before Buying Sapphires Rings (August 4, 2010)
Last reviewed: 3 Aug 2010