Scolding a Severely Depressed Person for Being Depressed Makes it Worse

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness  (c)2015 Nancy Virden

photo-24819926-couple-having-argumentSam was severely depressed. He spoke of suicide rather freely, and one could tell by his behavior he was upset and struggling.

In support group he reported that a need to isolate and hide had earlier plopped him in his closet where he shut the door. His wife didn’t know what to do.

She hollered at him to get up. He could not. Overpowering waves of hopelessness had made it temporarily  too physically strenuous and mentally exhausting to get off the floor.

Sam’s mental health had been going downhill for weeks. He was on leave from work, ignoring his small son, and sitting around the house doing nothing. His wife supported the family financially, and was stressing out about it too. She wanted her husband back, her son’s father back, and normalcy. She was doubtlessly frightened, so she hollered.

It is difficult to remember in the moment that a majorly depressed person is temporarily ill.  He or she may feel helpless and confused. Even as Sam spoke of his wish to return to work and play with his son, his depression had him hiding in a closet. Guilt added to his dark mood. He wondered aloud if his family would be better off without him.

No one would try to oust the flu by yelling at it.  Depression is invisible, yet real. Behavior appearing lazy or selfish is not necessarily such. It can take a painfully long time to recover.

Extreme negative thinking is unreasonable.  Sam’s wife’s plea for him to “get up and do something about it” did not feel like encouragement or a friendly kick in the seat. Rather, it added to his shame, guilt, and sense of failure.

What would have helped is if she joined Sam in the closet and said she loved him and needed him in her life. I know this, because Sam shared it.  It would have given him hope.  

It is important to remember most of us cannot diagnose or treat another person’s mental illness. Protocol is to reach out for professional help.   

Compassionate love can prevail.


NOTE:  I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness, abuse, and addiction. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental or behavioral health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, in the U.S. call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or for a list of international suicide hotlines, go here

If you are suicidal with a plan, immediately call 911 in the U.S.  (for international emergency numbers, go here ), or go to your nearest emergency room. Do not be alone. Hope and help are yours.

*pictures from

Submit a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.