Please Don't Tell me to Cheer Up!

Confiding about my mental health status is a momentous step for me, and while many try their best to understand, I’m still shocked when people tell me to cheer up.  Not only does this so-called advice cause me personal distress, it trivializes my illness and reinforces depression stigma.

Depression is real, it is a serious, potentially
life-threatening illness

Depression is a serious and potentially life-threatening illness and having to deal with people’s assumptions around depression only adds to the pain. There’s really no point telling someone with depression to cheer up, it’s the worst advice ever: not only does it trivialize their condition, it denies their pain.

When you have depression, you don’t want advice, you just want to be understood.

Opening up about depression isn’t easy. I don’t brave it to get sympathy, attention or advice, it’s not that simple (depression never is). 

My heart aches for a time when finally, together, we can break through the isolation, shame and stigma of depression. The truth is, people often don’t know how to respond to mental health concerns.

It takes great bravery to open up and actually tell someone you have depression. 

When someone opens up to you about depression, the best way to respond is with your presence.  When you have the overwhelming urge to say something, try to refrain from making assumptions or blurting out a sentiment. Because no matter how well meaning we may be in giving advice, it will likely end up backing the recipient into a corner.

Depression is a serious illness which can affect people in so many different ways. While some people are able to manage and have functional days, others may struggle to function at all. Having the courage to open up about depression is a huge step. 

Often when a person with depression opens up about their mental health, they don’t want advice, they just want to feel less alone in their suffering.

Depression is a debilitating condition that tears away at the soul. When someone opens up about their illness it’s definitely not a ploy for attention or sympathy, it is a soul shaking cry for help.

When I actually have the courage to confide in another person about my illness, I simply want them to know: even though it may not seem like it at times, I really am doing the best I can. Please don’t tell me to cheer up, I’m grieving for the positive, bright and happy woman I once was.

Depression is an invisible illness but that doesn’t make the struggle less real. The best thing you can say to someone who has confided in you about their illness is: “I’m sorry you’re not feeling well, thank you for opening up, I will try my best to understand and support you through this”.

As a culture, we don’t really know how to talk about depression. But unless we begin to see the suffering nature of what is a very limited world view, we will continue to reinforce the habit of not seeing.

Together we can stop the stigma, and we can start by dropping the urge to give advice. Please don’t tell a depressed person to cheer up, treat them as you would with any other person struggling with chronic illness. Try to understand the seriousness of their condition.

Every day I feel the anguish of what it is to fight hard and give it your best, only to be met with a sense of dejection and failure. My hope is shine light on the struggle, so together we can better understand and support each other.

Telling the truth about depression isn’t easy, but together we need to be brave, so we can walk each other through the loneliness and isolation.

Stay strong brave friend

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