How to Talk About Depression to Friends and Co-workers
Depression is a mood disorder that affects 15 million adults in the United States and can have a drastic effect on your social relationships and professional life. Although depression does affect everyone differently, some individuals are embarrassed to share about their illness out of fear they may be stigmatized, ridiculed, ignored, or even fired from their job. So how can you talk about depression in a manner where you will not feel judged or ashamed?
You can choose whether or not you want to disclose your mental illness
When you talk about depression to anyone is your own choice. Your mental health problem is a medical problem, and therefore you have the right to keep that information private. You are not required to tell others about your depression except if your employer has an absenteeism policy that requires you to provide a medical note if you have been absent for a prolonged period. You may also have to disclose your depression to your employer if you are claiming employee benefits and your company requires claims to be submitted to them directly.
Explain how your depression affects your daily life
Once you have chosen to talk with co-workers or friends about your depression, instead of sounding like an encyclopedia or a clinician, be honest about your symptoms and how they affect your daily life. Maybe sometimes you cannot get out of bed, and that is why you are always late, or perhaps you are unable to concentrate hence why your work performance has declined. Telling your personal story can help others see your perspective and hopefully better understand that depression is an actual illness.
If the tables are turned and you are on the receiving end of listening to a friend or co-worker about their battle with depression, remember that they want to be heard. Your role is not to offer advice right away but to listen by putting down your phone, stepping away from the computer and giving them your undivided attention. Maybe you can learn something from their experiences that can help you with your battle. Perhaps you are the first person your friend or co-worker has ever confided in about their mental health. Maybe your reaction will be the deciding factor of whether they talk more about their depression. Remember to always listen with open ears and an open heart, in the most non-judgmental way possible.
When you talk about depression, tell your friends and co-workers about how they can help
Talking to your friends about your battle with depression is monumental, but it can also leave your friends with many questions. When you talk about depression to them, they may want to help you but do not know how. Tell them how they can help you, whether it is giving you space and time when you are running late for a meeting, accompanying you when you are feeling lonely and isolated or listening to your fears and worries.
Bring along some information
Your friends and co-workers may have questions about your depression, and you may not be able to answer some of these questions, therefore try to be open to researching depression and bring along some insightful resources where both you and your friends can learn something new. Educating yourself and others about mental illness is a huge part of advocacy and breaking the stigma surrounding depression.