Articles on what not to say to people suffering from depression abound online, and are fairly helpful. (Here’s an example.)
I usually agree with most, if not all points, having both suffered from depression myself, and having had people who cared, but who were wholly unqualified to weigh in, trying to offer helpful advice.
“Helpful advice” that just ended up being a combination of judgmentalism and a projection of their own lack of insight into the condition (not to mention of their own anxieties and mental issues).
To pad the question out, I’d like to know what to say to someone who asks “What’s wrong with you?”, when you have a strong sense that to answer truthfully will likely be taken as an invitation to offer unsolicited–and potentially damaging–advice.
It’s a much more likely scenario than any of those in which people display preternatural empathy and tact at precisely the right moment, so: what to do?
The World Health Organisation gives some decent introductory-level advice: learn the basics of psychological first aid. The unvoiced corollary being Or just don’t go there, as you’ll probably make matters worse.
But how do you avoid such situations, in the first place? Are you obliged to lie, or to be evasive? Do you tell the truth and bite the bullet of inappropriateness that is almost guaranteed to follow? Or is there a third option? I have no answer—it’s an open question, and one that makes for many a mulling.