What Smiling Depression Is and What You Can Do If Someone You Love Has It
If you search for the #faceofdepression hashtag on social media, you’ll see hundreds of pictures showing happy and smiling people who are, in fact, suffering from depression. Sometimes these photos are posted by the people themselves, but more often, they are shared by their relatives and friends who want to help their loved ones and want to tell the world about this problem. Unfortunately, some of these photos are posted too late, when the people smiling in them are already gone.
Here at Bright Side we want to tell you what smiling depression is, how you can recognize it in someone you love, and the most important part, how you can help them cope with this problem.
What smiling depression is and why it can be dangerous
“This was days before my husband took his own life. Suicidal thoughts were there, but you’d never know.”
Having smiling depression means you’re trying to appear happy and cheerful to others, while suffering deep inside. People who have it don’t seem to be suffering, that’s why their friends and family don’t suspect that anything is wrong. In addition, sometimes those who suffer don’t realize they have problems, so they don’t look for any support or help. People with smiling depression often live active social lives, they have families, friends, and jobs, they look successful and pretty happy, and you’d never know what was hiding behind this happy façade.
The worst part of this problem is that there seems to be a connection between smiling depression and suicidal thoughts. These people may seem to be energetic and enthusiastic on the surface, but behind closed doors they may feel worthless and desperate. After the lead vocalist for Linkin Park, Chester Bennington, took his own life, his wife Talinda shared a photo of him just a few days before his suicide. Chester was smiling and having fun with the family, and no one knew what thoughts were running through his head at that moment.
“Last picture of my mom and I at dinner. She committed suicide a month later, just before my 21st birthday.”
Even though smiling depression is hiding behind a mask of happiness, there are ways you can recognize it in someone you love or in yourself. The most frequent signs of smiling depression include:
- A decreased interest in hobbies and activities the person once loved
- Weight and appetite changes
- Fatigue and loss of concentration
- Thinking about negative situations over and over again
- Forced and unnatural happiness
Here’s how you can help someone who is suffering from smiling depression:
“My best friend a week before he committed suicide. Check on your friends everyone.”
- Help them realize they have a problem. Many people don’t want to admit that they are depressed, because they are afraid to seem weak. Let them know you love and support them, no matter what happens.
- Be a good listener. It means, you should actively listen to the person you want to help, letting them feel you hear and understand what they are saying. Don’t just say that everything is going to be fine. Try to think together about which steps can be taken to cope with the situation and offer your help if you feel you can do something.
Help them boost their self-esteem. Some experts suggest that our self-esteem is our “emotional immune system,” and when it breaks, we start feeling low and depressed. Try to help your friend or relative find a meaningful activity or project which could help them feel productive and successful again.
One of the last pictures of Robin Williams taken before his suicide in 2014
- Pay more attention to the people you love. A message or 2 per week that we send each other seems to be enough in our modern pace of life, but it’s not. Call your friends and family whenever you think of them, ask them how they are doing, and don’t get satisfied with a quick, “I’m Okay.” Be involved and make sure you don’t miss the alarming symptoms we described above.
- Help them act “normal.” Try to encourage the person who is suffering from smiling depression to do all the things a “healthy” person would do. Suggest doing some of them together. They could be shopping, going to the cinema, or running in the park every morning. Our physical actions affect our feelings and emotions, and acting like a happier person can help your friend feel better.
“The last picture of my baby sister and I, taken one month before she committed suicide.”
- Suggest that they stick to a healthier diet and start exercising. People with depression may find it difficult to go to the gym, but doing exercises at home may be just fine for them. Experts believe that some types of depression can be caused by a lack of certain elements in our bodies (like serotonin or vitamin D, for example), and this deficiency can often be fixed with the help of a healthy diet.
- Suggest trying therapy and getting medical treatment. It may be extremely hard to break the cycle of depression all on your own. A therapist may be able to help your friend or relative fight depression faster and more effectively. Let your loved one understand that there’s nothing wrong with seeking out professional treatment: it is not embarrassing and it doesn’t make them weak.
Have any of your friends or relatives ever suffered from depression? What did you do to help them?