Addressing depression: What not to say to a depressed beloved

Trishia Billones, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 18 2019 04:17 PM | Updated as of Jan 18 2019 04:39 PM

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MANILA - When someone you love manifests possible symptoms of depression, such as increase in substance abuse, social withdrawal, or statements signifying feelings of emptiness, what do you do?

Clinical neuropsychologist Ann Helmus said she has heard people with depression recount feeling "empty" even if the best thing in the world is happening.

One person even described it as "going through the world with a veil across my eyes, everything is just fuzzy and gauzy, and I’m not even part of my surroundings. I’m there, but I’m not there," she recalled.

People usually say "Cheer up!" or try to fix the problem in response to hearing words of their depressed loved ones, like "the pain in my life is unbearable, I can’t go on any further, I feel trapped, there’s no reason to live, I know I’m just a burden on you, a burden on everybody, you’ll be better off if I’m dead," said Helmus.

This shouldn't be the case, though, she said.

"What we should really do in that moment is to calm ourselves down, stop panicking and start listening," she told ANC's Headstart.

"Just say, ‘I’m here, tell me more, this sounds really hard, you sound like you’re in a lot of pain. Your life feels unbearable to you right now. I’m here, tell me more, I want to understand, I want to join you, I want to bear witness to your experience.'"

There is no one single cause of depression, said Helmus. Depression can be triggered in some people after a "major life event," while some people are genetically born with it.

"It doesn’t mean that just because you have the genetic vulnerability to depression or even if you were unlucky enough to be born with the gene that you’re going to be depressed, that there’s nothing to do. That’s not the case," she said.

"There are a number of treatments and we can’t predict which treatment is going to work of which people, so we have to try several approaches until we hit the right thing. Medication is a huge part," she added.

While conversations with friends and family could help some, Helmus recommended talking to a counselor or therapist, who are less likely to be pulled by emotions.

Helmus added, a recent study that looked into the use of social networking sites among 18- to 22-year-olds found that the time spent online also affects mental health.

Some 3.3 million Filipino suffer from depressive disorders. Suicide rates in the country are at 2.5 males and 1.7 females per 100,000, said the Department of Health in asking the public not to share the tragic video of Razorback drummer Brian Velasco.

Data from the World Health Organization show that 800,000 people die due to suicide every year, making it the second leading cause of death in 15 to 29 year olds.

Editor's note:

A group in the Philippines is dedicated to addressing those who have suicidal tendencies.

The crisis hotlines of the Natasha Goulbourn Foundation aim to make these individuals feel that someone is ready to listen to them.

These are their hotline numbers:

(02) 804-HOPE (4673)
0917 558 HOPE (4673)
2919 (toll-free number for all GLOBE and TM subscribers)