How to connect with depressed friends | Bill Bernat | TEDxSnoIsleLibraries

Translator: Leonardo Silva
Reviewer: Mile Živković The one conversation that uplifted me
more than any other in my life was with a woman who told me
how a few days earlier she drove her Jeep Wrangler
to the edge of the Grand Canyon and sat there revving the engine,
thinking about driving over. Even though I had severe social anxiety, in that conversation
I was totally at ease. (Laughter) She told me what was going on in her life
in the days and months leading up, what her thoughts were
at that exact moment, why she wanted to die
and why she didn’t do it. We nodded and half-smiled, and then it was my turn to talk
about my journey to a dining table in the hygienic community area
of the mental health wing of a mountain town hospital. I took too many sleeping pills
and, after they treated me for that, they were like, “Hey, we would love it if you would be our guest
in the psych ward.” (Laughter) We joked that her suicide
would have made a way better postcard. We talked shop. She allowed me to be deeply depressed and have a genuine connection
to another person simultaneously. For the first time, I identified
as somebody living with depression, and I felt good about it! Like, I wasn’t a bad person for it. Now, imagine one of the people
at that table was a member of your family, or a close friend. Would you be comfortable talking to them? What if, instead of the hospital,
they were at your kitchen table and told you they were really depressed? The World Health Organization says that depression is the leading cause
of ill health and disability worldwide, affecting 350 million people. The National Institute of Mental Health reports seven percent of Americans
experiencing depression in a year. So, depression is super common! Yet, in my experience, most folks don’t want to talk
to depressed people unless we pretend to be happy. A cheerful facade is appropriate
for casual interactions, A depressed person can ask for extra syrup
in their pumpkin-spiced latte without explaining that they need it because they’re trapped
in the infinite darkness of their soul and they’ve lost all hope of escape. Again… (Laughter) Depression doesn’t diminish a person’s
desire to connect with other people, just their ability. So, in spite of what you might think, talking with friends and family living
with depression can be really easy and maybe even fun. Not like “Facebook selfie with Lady Gaga
at an underground party” fun. I’m talking about the kind of fun where people enjoy each other’s
company effortlessly, nobody feels awkward and no one accuses
the sad person of ruining the holidays. Why does this chasm even exist, right? On the one side, you have people
living with depression who may act in off-putting
or confusing ways because they’re fighting a war
in their head that nobody else can see. On the other side, the vast majority of people look
across the chasm and shake their heads like, “Why you’ve got be so depressed?” You may recognize
a divide like this in your life. Do you want to build a bridge across it? You may not want to build a bridge,
and that’s a totally valid choice. Or maybe you’d like to build
a stronger connection, but – you have a lot of questions and concerns. You’re what I might call “bridge curious.” (Laughter) Here are some possible reasons why
some of you may avoid depressed people. You might be afraid that, if you talk
to somebody while they’re depressed, you’re suddenly responsible
for their well-being. You’re not expected to be Dr. Phil. Just be friendly, more like Ellen. (Laughter) You may worry that
you won’t know what to say and every attempt
at conversation will be awkward an, you know, the only
you’ll feel comfortable is when you both just give up on talking
and stare at your phones. Words are not the most
important thing to focus on. You might fear seeing your shadow. Hey, if you have been successfully
outrunning your personal emotional demons, that’s awesome! May the wind be at your back! You can be the least
woo-woo person in the world and still connect with depressed people. Maybe you’ve heard
that depression is contagious and you’re afraid of catching it. Bring some hand sanitizer. (Laughter) You’re much more likely
to catch the joy of human bonding. Maybe you see – maybe you see depressed
people differently. You think of them as flawed or defective. Multiple university studies have shown that A students are more likely
to have bipolar condition. Our brains aren’t broken or damaged. They just work differently. I spent a lot of years thinking
happy people just don’t get it! (Laughter) I did eventually stop
discriminating against happy people. (Laughter) I began battling depression
when I was eight, and decades later, to my surprise,
I started winning! I shifted from being miserable
much of the time to enjoying life. I live pretty well
with my bipolar condition and I’ve overcome some other
mental health conditions like overeating, addiction
and social anxiety. So, I live on both sides of this chasm, and I’m offering some guidance
based on my experience to help you build a bridge
across it, if you want to, okay? It’s not hard science, but I worked with a lot of people I know,
who’ve lived with depression, to refine these suggestions. OK, first up, some things
you might want to avoid, some don’ts. One of the most off-putting things
you can say is, “Just get over it.” Great idea! Love it!
It’s just we already thought of that. (Laughter) The absence of the ability
to just get over it is depression. (Laughter) (Applause) We feel it in our bodies. We feel it in our bodies.
It’s a physical thing for us. And medically, it’s no different from telling someone
with a broken ankle or cancer, “Just get over it.” Don’t be hell-bent on fixing us. Like, thank you, but the pressure can make us,
depressed people, feel like we’re disappointing you. Also, things that make some people
feel better may not work for us. You can’t cure clinical depression
by getting ice cream, which is unfortunate
because that would be living the dream. (Laughter) Don’t take a negative response personally. So, I have a friend who, about a year ago, messaged me that he was really
isolated and depressed, and I suggested some things for him to do
and he was like, “No, no and no!” And I got mad, like, “How dare you
not embrace my brilliant wisdom?” (Laughter) And then I remembered times
I’ve been depressed, and how I thought I was doomed
in all possible futures or everybody suddenly hated me
and things like that. It didn’t matter how many people
told me otherwise, I didn’t believe them. So, I let my friend know I cared,
and I didn’t take it personally. Don’t let a lack of bubbly happiness
freak you out, okay? It’s not a shark attack, “Call out the coast guard!
My friend is sad!” We can be sad and okay at the same time. I’m going to say that again, because in our society
we’re taught the opposite, and so it’s counter-intuitive: people can be sad and okay
at the same time. So, some of these things may apply
to you personally, some may not. Take what’s useful. And remember: you don’t have to connect. If you want to, here are some suggestions
that may help, some dos. Talk to us in your natural voice, right? (Laughter) You don’t need to put on a sad voice
because we’re depressed! You don’t sneeze when you’re talking
to somebody with a cold. (Laughter) It’s not rude to be upbeat.
You can be you, okay? If you make an offer to be there for us,
clearly state what you can and can’t do. I have told people,
“Hey, call or text any time, but I might not be able
to get back to you that same day.” It’s totally cool to not make an offer or to make a narrow offer
with really clear boundaries around it. Give us a sense of control. Like, get our consent. I have a friend who, a while back,
when I was having a depressive episode, reached out and said,
“Hey, I want to check in with you. Can I call you every day? Maybe text you every day
and call later in the week? What works for you?” By getting my permission,
she earned my complete confidence and remains one of my best friends today. Let us belong,
even if we suicidally ideate, meaning find relief from inter pain
by imagining escaping living. It’s not a plan to act. It’s like a psychological valve
to release pressure. And I’m not endorsing it or denouncing it. I’m just letting you see that depressed
people can imagine escaping their lives as casually as some of you
may think about the weather. I do a comedy show about depression, and depressed people
love to laugh about ideation, because they can relate. And my last suggestion is: interact about not depression,
aka normal stuff. I have a friend who, when people
were worried about him, they would call and ask
if he wanted to go shopping or help them clean out their garage. Your depressed friends could be
a good source of free labor. (Laughter) What I’m really getting at is: invite them to contribute
to your life in some way, even if it’s as small as asking you to go see a movie that you wanted
to see in the theater. So, that’s a lot of dos
and don’ts and maybes, and it’s not, by any means,
a definitive list. The thing to remember is that they’re all
grounded in one guiding principle. It’s what allowed the woman
in the Jeep Wrangler to start me on the path to recovery
without even trying. She talked to me like I belonged and contributed exactly
as I was at that moment. If you talk to a depressed person as if their life is just as valuable,
intense and beautiful as yours, then there’s no need
to build a bridge between you, because you’ve closed the chasm. Focus on that instead of your words, and it may be the most
uplifting conversation of their life. What could that do
for somebody you care about? What could it do for you? Thank you. (Applause) (Cheers)

About the author


  1. I used those suicidal ideations back when my personal problems and problems made my people I surrounded myself with really got out of hand and it did help me. I thought: "Hey, if I don't want this anymore, there is still the possiblity of leaving this life."

  2. "…watching people who are struggling emotionally find ways to beat personal demons and get glimpses of inner peace." Glimpses of peace? Screw you, man, right where it hurts the most. I can't remember what happiness and peace even look like and I don't think your lame comedy or pat advice will help anyone "get over it". Here, have my "glimpse" because I'll never see it. I hate you.

  3. Sometimes I just need my parents to understand that I need help and I’m not dramatic and I need you to understand because sometimes I don’t wanna come out and eat some barbecue I just need you to help me and I need you

  4. I'm glad he mentioned the ideation point, it's something i've found myself and a lot of people do that people without depression often don't understand.

  5. Well try having social anxiety too, too afraid to even get help, having an extreme fear of being judged by people, feeling no no one understands and just being extremely embarrassed.

  6. Just letting you know that this is exactly the words I needed to hear. You have no idea how much time I've spend looking for something like this. Now I understand so many things now and all because of you, thank you so so so much, now I'm going to try to be more helpful for my friend who has depression. Thanks a lot, you have opened my mind.

    Keep up like this, you're a genius!

  7. How about just letting depressed people be- Leave them alone without having to "fend off" unrequired/unrequested well-meaning offers of "help". Be present in spirit and love, but give them space and afford them the liberty to reject your physical presence without being offended. You don't need to "cure" them. Especially if uninvited.

  8. I got one friend who just says that i don't need to think about me being sad, because it doesn't help me, while it's true i just can't help it. Besides that most of my friends are busy so i feel like i would be bothering them if i want to talk to them or hang out with them so i often just sit at home feeling sad.

  9. I hope people will read my story and hopefully you guys accept me the way I am years ago I have a depression since I was 10 years old I never know what is depression all I know is i'm so stress about myself about my life . I am not a good student my dad is always beat me but not my big brother it is so unfair why me the only one who got beat up but not my brother because I am girl ? I am so angry to my dad because my dad is always not with me since I was born I just remember that I try to hate my dad but I can't because he is my dad I can't I just can't hate him then one day my aunt just call my mom and say that my grandfather in the hospital my mom call my dad he don't pickup the phone because my dad working outside the country so my just ask her friend to send us me,my brother and her to the bus terminal or terminal bus I don't know then we take a bus then go to my mother hometown my grandfather is become better and better so after my grandfather is fully recover my family back to our house in other country then my father just arrive at our house then my dad enter the house and slap my mom front my eyes he almost beat my mom so I run to my mom huge her and tell my dad" don't you love her?" I feel so angry and sad and my dad huge and say "I love her" then I cry I don't understand I say in my heart" then why you slap her ?" I ask my mom about that in my mom bedroom it was night my dad is already sleep in other bedroom I don't know they don't sleep together and my mom say to me that" It is because" I don't tell to you dad that I want to back to my hometown to visit your Grandpa ' then I say in my heart that" how you gonna tell if you call him he don't pickup" …… I am so sorry guys I can't share this story anymore I am so sorry…. Hopefully you guys have a amazing day I am so sorry

  10. I have a friend who may be depressed, the only thing I'm afraid of is letting him down. Not be there for him as much as a should, or doing something wrong. On the other hand though, I don't want to do nothing, I'd rather try then sit there and do nothing.

  11. how can I help people – my friends – get out of depression if they either don't even realize they are depressed or they do and don't want help? I've been depressed once and I know exactly how it feels and I don't wish that kind of feeling – the loneliness, the sadness, always saying "yeah I'm ok" when I'm not – on anyone. Without writing too much about that one single person I really want to help right now, I've got quite a bit of Drama going, and I don't want it. But she sometimes writes me about her problems, especially concerning about a boy and she sometimes wonders if he would care (more) if she got into an accident. I want to help her. I want her to see that being in this world actually isn't that bad at all. There are positive things to see, to experience. But no matter how hard I try to help her (and make her think), she always says thank you and a few weeks later writes again, with the same problem, just another situation. Maybe someone here can give me advice for that. And to the readers here who suffer from depression – if you are willing to talk, I'll always be here to listen, ok? I want to help, however small that help would be. No one deserves feeling hurt, feeling alone, feeling depressed. Talk to someone, ask for help. And if you don't want to talk to someone you know (cause it may be embarrassing), talk to a stranger who has a neutral outlook, or who has went through a similar "phase". Everyone deserves to be happy – aaaaaaand I apologize for writing a whole novel ^-^"

  12. Well that's all there is and everybody tramples over you when you don't need it..evem the ones closest to you….but hey no expectations right?

  13. I felt depression like not wanting anything in li e so i started wanting things before my live was over and now i can cope a little but have many fallbacks

  14. Thanks to this video i've finally understood what I was blaming my parents for.
    They are trying their best to help me, but I really feel ashamed to not feel better and it makes it even worse.
    It is a really great video, I wish my parents would understand english so I would show it to them. (by the way if my english is flawed, please tell me, it's not my native language)

  15. The epitome of my social validation last year was post op colonoscopy when the nurses yelled: That's what we want to hear!!. The wind came from my back side. That's as good as it ever gets. I have to wait 2 more years and go through the indignities associated with it to experience those few moments again, that moment when my placeholder on this planet means more than my aging bride's reassurances. Its enough to make one want to resort to hypochondria.

  16. All true but the causes of depression are often situational, or related to unknown pathogens, or because a person has a physical illness (situational again). The problem with depression is not the depression itself but how the non depressed people respond to it. So sadly often time people who are depressed end up alone and abandoned to their own faith.

  17. This video made me realise that my husband and I are actually helping in some form with our sons depression! We always feel like we should be doing more but what we are doing already might just be enough! Thanks

  18. This man is probably a blast to hang out with, despite not being all that exciting. No wonder he knows how to fight depression.

  19. Alright I know nobody will care to read this, like this, or respond but I just need to put this out there. This will probably have no sense of flow but this is just everythingDepression isn't just a process of becoming stronger, it's an illness. You don't get stronger, you get beat down. I'm not important, and I've accepted this. I've been pondering this recently; What is the point of living if you aren't needed? My Mom is a liar and manipulates me all the time, my Step-Mom cares about our dog more than me and my little brother (who hates me) combined, and is taking our dog to a dog show days away, which also happens to be on my birthday, so she's sacrificing me for my dog. My best friend hates me bc of how I feel about her. I was going to ask her to homecoming because she's great and she's asked me to dance before, but as soon as I had the guts to ask she told me that she already was going with someone else. Most of my friends are mad at me for seeing the truth; I'm not wanted or needed anymore. Some of them that hate me haven't said anything because they know I'm right. My YouTube channel used to bring me happiness to see those enjoyed by my creations, but now I'm actually getting smaller and nobody cares to watch anymore. In every aspect of my life, I'm annoying and a complete utter failure. The only reason I haven't killed myself is because I'm a coward. I've tried to drown myself several times and picked up knives and put them to my chest/neck but I'm a coward. I can't tell anyone else this because like my friends they'll probably just get mad at me too. In Discord I'm also constantly being told to leave the servers because I'm annoying and don't matter. My little brother goes to therapy and my Mom, who lies and plays favorites, is making me go as well but I know the therapist just tells my Mom everything so I don't trust him so I can't use the help I'm given. So most of my family doesn't care, my friends don't really care and are mad at me for learning the truth, and the help I'm given can't be trusted. So, if there is no joy in life, if there's no hope or light that anything will get better, If you're not wanted or needed, then what's the point of being alive? Seriously, think about it. I don't understand. Everywhere I go I'm just tossed aside. Why should I continue waiting for 8 more months?

  20. Over the past 5 years I had started to have increasingly pull away into a downward spiral of depression. But nowadays I can truly say that I desired to live and help a lot of people by the help of this depression treatment “fetching kafon press” (Google it). I am happy and savoring numerous social actions..

  21. My situation is a bit complicated. My ex has depression and anxiety disorder, and one of the reasons we broke up is because I couldn't comprehend her conditions on her bad days. I just couldn't fully understand what she was going through while dealing with my own issues, and that caused her to be fed up with our relationship and decided to end things between us. I regret not being able to be more comprehensive of her condition.

  22. I have a friend who might be battling depression. The problem is I don't think that he acknowledges the fact. We live far away from each other so we mostly communicate over the phone or text. :/ I am concerned mostly because sometimes he calls and we're having a normal conversation, but sometime the conversations don't make sense… like telling me he's at three different places at once. I'm just worried of the unthinkable… ='(

  23. I'm a person with depression with social anxiety.. who lives with a roommate – also with depression. Everything's so goddamn hard when we're both barely functional at best. But I'll try. Will start with 'stop suggesting things' because I know what works for me might not work for my roommate, but it's so frustrating to not do so when your communication skills are worse than even a five year olds. But I'm trying. Thank you for this presentation, sincerely.

  24. I just love this video! It's so funny while inspiring. My mom is just like him. She's bipolar, has anxiety and depression and more things. So I have never really discriminated, but I've had a friend for 6 months and she is a beautiful, funny, caring person. Recently she's been venting lots and opening up to me. I really just don't understand why people discriminate between depressed people.

    If someone you had known for your whole life and was always fun, they identified they had depression. Would you suddenly alienate them? Your brother? Sister? Best friend in school? Neighbour? No. So why would if change how you look at them?

    Just treat them like a normal human being

  25. I told my husband i was depressed and all he said was "why are you thinking negative? Think positive" i told my best friend and shes annoyed by my repetitive episodes and recommended a visit to a psychiatrist. Im constantly telling to myself shut the f up no one cares so ill just suffer in silence until i cant take it anymore.

  26. Thank you for putting these posts out here for people who suffer from depression have a glimmer of hope to ending the stigma around this darkness that consumes us.

  27. As someone who has suffered MDD and who currently works at a psych ward, you nailed it. And it was good to have a refresher on not taking anything personally.

  28. Oh I wish they find a cure against depression. It´s such a threat to human wellbeing and happiness.

  29. My friend has been depressed and lonely and needs lots of attention that I just don’t have the ability to give him and he gets angry and upset when I don’t always want to talk to him which makes me want to talk to him less because he is upset and puts me in a terrible mood and I don’t know what to do to fix it. I want to be his friend but I just can’t give him all the attention he needs and I can’t keep dealing with the backlash when I don’t respond as often

  30. Is there anyone who really isn’t depressed or sad every single day? Is everyone just faking it better than me or am I legitimately depressed? Sometimes I don’t know if I’m being dramatic about the dread that accompanies daily life. I just know I am and will be sad about everything from day to day.

  31. 7% of Americans are depressed? Bruh bump that up to 56% or is it just that I know all of the most depressing and suicidal people?

  32. Yup, they always say get over it, but it is really hard. I don't know what to do sometimes, I just wanna lay in bed and sleep all night. I'm always tired of everything.

  33. I do not understand when you have been there for someone through thick and thin…….then they tell you, you depress me. Really ? Why, because I have my life together, save money, all bills are paid, go on trips ? Well yes ! ! Jeepers ! ! Is some of their problem to get sympathy or attention ? Could it be envy or jealousy ? I am ready to just give up on them.

  34. I was suffering from a chronic kidney disease and getting treatment from almost last 4 years.
    But suddenly once its started become more painfull , its become difficult for a normal urine pass so i went to one of the best doctor of my city. He is M.S in nephorology, after few tests , he said you need a urgent operation and your kidney has to be operate out because of infection and its only way to save your life.
    His words made me more weaker then different doctors said you may have cancer. In india a normal uneducated family don't know how to deal with such situations. I went to a deep dipression , i lost my everything , didn't feel safe , never even tiny smile on face on heavy jokes. Daily i plan to suicide bcoz no one in my family wants me to die so easily because operations bwas very risky as said by doctor in a very cruel way. I lost complete hope.
    But things started improving with constant efforts of my family , friends who started living with me at the peak of their semester.
    And finally i am continuing my studies with a positive approach.
    Its a real life story and may be i am not able to express it in a better way.
    Those who are suffering from any such conditions please talk to me 8090986361. I dont want anything but i will feel very happy if will be able to help even a single person.

  35. For me I just miss my last few years in college. My friends, family, work, school all of it was great and rewarding. Now I just feel empty. I don’t think that much has really changed but I’m just not happy like I was then. I’m worried I’ll spend the rest of my life trying to get that feeling back and every day I get further from when I was happy

  36. I'm 3:22 into this amazing talk and can't wait to hear what else Mr. Bernat has to say. My thoughts are that if a person tells you they're depressed, they don't want a lecture about being positive, forgiveness, gratitude, nutrition, exercise, helping others, etc. They really just want to know that you care.

  37. I am a doctor.I love njoyng with people.i work hard. but i find it difficult to connect which leads my patients unsatisfied..i deliberately avoid meeting ppl even their calls.i cant talk to my parents even..which hurts them a lot..its not that i dont want to smile with them..its like i cant..and i fail to xplain why…and when i see them cryng bcz of me..i feel like ending up my life..i wish if there was any way to xplain whts making feel so hollow…

  38. “ There’s no need to build a bridge between you (and the depressed person) because you have closed the chasm”. That’s deep!

    Is that at-one-ment?

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