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Areeb Jamal
Areeb Jamal

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My personal opinion on how to deal with troubled people

This is what I have gathered from my experience with talking to several people who were in a troubled phase in their life and some of which I know are in a better mental state and others I hope are.

What does not help a depressed person:
"Just focus on what's good, ignore the bad things"
"I'll help you face your problems instead of running away from them"
"This is nothing. I have had worse"
Making false promises/Giving false hopes
Being temporary friends

Others which don't even need explaining:
"Just be happy. Just be positive"
"It's all in your head"
"You have everything. You have nothing to be depressed about"

Firstly, I'd also like to say thanks to all the people who are saying over their timelines that they are open to talk with someone who's feeling depressed/I'm there if you need me. Some people do talk with others who are open this way, but many won't feel comfortable sharing their problems with someone abruptly whom they don't have a bond with. But it is anyway, a net positive change and may help many who feel the need to be heard.

"Just focus on what's good, ignore the bad things"
If a person felt so hopeless that they felt so strongly that their life wasn't worth living, they already would have thought about focusing on good things and at that point, the balance has toppled far towards bad things in their life and saying this may not only be dismissive of their current feelings which may drive them away thinking that you don't understand them or don't want to listen to them, because you're saying a token statement nothing to do with their current state of mind/situation. This may also trigger their memories in which they don't have so much to hold on to in good ones, and reminds them of how much they have endured over the years. I was presented with an argument that out of 100 people, most love you and 2-3 will be bad to you, and still we focus on negativity. In reality, for people who suffer from depression due to social reasons, the situation is exactly the opposite. There are maybe 2-3 or even less people who are supportive of them and most others are indifferent and behave poorly with them. Many times, they don't even have that, or they're away from home far from people who actually care about them. When a person believes there is no one for them, it may further isolate a person and push them towards artificial means of numbing down their pain with things like alcohol and drugs, which will only worsen the situation and in an intoxicated mind, they may take drastic decisions that they may not even live to regret.

"I'll help you face your problems instead of running away from them"
This may be said in a supportive manner, but is dismissive and insensitive to what situation the person is in. In some contexts, it may be the right thing to say. But in many, a person may feel hopeless and there may be nothing that they can do. In such time, all they need is an ear, a shoulder to cry on, or someone who can stay with them emotionally in this tough time. So, please, first listen to them and try to understand if there is a solution first or not. Because implying someone is running away from their problems will distance that person from you.
Many times, we may also say something that comes from a place of privilege, along the lines of "Don't have bread. Eat cake". So, please also be mindful of the difference between your situations and theirs. What may be optimal for you may not be for them.

"This is nothing. I have had worse"
I have seen a lot of people who simply draw a comparison to their life and say that this is nothing, I have had worse and this is not something to be depressed about. Kudos to you, who have endured pain and lived through it, you should be proud. But every person's situation is different. It is not OK to compare pain. Depression is not a single bad incident that happened in your life. It's a threshold that is surpassed when too many things happen against a person. The problem they are sad about is not likely the first one they had, and comparison with their pain and dismissing it as something which is tolerable may make them dwell more into worthlessness. I have had people say that, "Maybe if this is like it for everyone, and even worse, then I can't take it anymore"

Making false promises/Giving false hopes
Don't make false promises/promises you can't keep or give false hope to people which may not be true. When this happens, a person may attach to a particular event in future and believe it to be their liberator from pain. And when that doesn't happen, it may hurt them more than expecting nothing from it. I have seen people say that, "Just let this thing pass, then everything will be great", "This is a phase, after 4 years, this won't matter". We don't know what's in the future, so we can't/shouldn't make claims that everything will be better in future. Because if it doesn't, the person will fall down to a worse state than they were in because this event in future was all they were looking forward to in their life. Instead, help them cope up with things and make them feel welcome. Things may become harder or remain same, sometimes we get used to it. Putting this into words that may not hurt them is difficult and I don't bring this up until much later as this may make them feel that things will never get better and they'll just have to live through this their entire life. It's a very painful thought which a lot of us feel at various points of our life.
If someone is bullied in school/college, this might be true and will help a person endure through that, so in some contexts, it is fine to say, but even better is if you can help them in this situation so that bullying doesn't happen itself. Sometimes, people may be making fun of others while not realizing that it is something that is making that person feel unwelcome. Talk to them privately and most likely, they'll stop. Obviously, some people do this deliberately, so ask the bullied to block them on social media and avoid interacting with them in real life. Cutting off negative people has the biggest impact in people's mental health. It is difficult to go through with school/college if you are constantly bullied, and it is something harder to escape because most people can't just leave this and move on. Most people who have self-doubt and low confidence attribute it to their experiences with people in school/college. Try to talk to parents and tell them what happens there. In most situations, parents and teachers are not who students talk to because of similar dismissive responses they get from elders, so they need to change as well, and be more open.

Being temporary friends
It is good that you want to help a person by being their friend, but please be serious with this thought as many times, a depressed person will be self-abusive and mostly may talk about negative things they are feeling and that may not be what you want to hear all the time. I understand if someone feels that way and thus, should not take this decision lightly. It is very hard being a friend with someone who's troubled, and depressed people may also believe it to be a solution to all their problems, so remember that it is better to be alone than to be in a toxic friendship. We have a constant amount of energy we can spend on people, and if we spend it on someone who's not there to stay, we may feel even more hopeless and may not trust further friendships who may actually be there for us.

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