AFAIK this is quite established in both US and Japan (and I guess in other countries, too), and I myself have faithfully followed this advice whenever I had interaction with a depressed person.

I wonder though on what kind of evidence this is based. Does somebody know a study on this topic?

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    Is the advice you hear that it is actively harmful to the individual, or merely pointless and annoying to the individual and perpetuating a stigma associated with the disease? Any references?
    – Oddthinking
    May 23 '11 at 14:46
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    @Oddthinking: If you look at this search result, you can see how frequently this is talked about (google.com/…) (Note: page is in Japanese). Here is an English page that talks about this (whostolemysmile.com/2010/12/…). You can search with "Things not to say to depressed" etc. May 23 '11 at 14:57
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    @Oddthinking: PS. The advice says that it is actively harmful. Particularly in Japan, it is almost considered a taboo IMO. May 23 '11 at 14:59
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    It may cause a quick anger reaction, which may be useful in the short run, depending on circumstances. It does absolutely nothing useful in the long term, and can create additional guilt and stress. This is, of course, anecdotal evidence (if I had references, this would be an answer). However, Enno Shioji's source looks just as anecdotal. May 24 '11 at 3:04

I suspect it depends on the individual since each person may handle any given situation quite differently from another. Being depressed is incidental (as is being neurotically happy), but I would be concerned that the reaction from someone who is actually depressed could potentially be more dangerous (more likely to themselves).

I think it would also be important to understand the root cause of the depression (e.g., psychological, physical, a recent nasty divorce that separated the person from their children, a recent death in the family, survival of a violent illegal act, a wrongful criminal conviction, etc.), the person's environment, other mental/health conditions (e.g., they could be taking anti-depressant medication to counteract the side-effects of some other medication that is post-treatment for a recent life-saving surgery, in which case telling them to "toughen up" may only create more stress for them without actually being helpful), etc.

All of these factors (and many others) are very difficult for any study to take into consideration. If I knew someone who was depressed, making sure that they were at least getting some help from an expert who is qualified to deal with depression properly would be higher on my list.

  • While all of this looks quite reasonable (and I do have some personal experience), it's not only completely unsourced but doesn't really answer the question. May 24 '11 at 13:52
  • @David Thornley: There are actually two questions there, and I attempted to answer the first one (in the title) with some reasonable thoughts on the matter (also @Tyler seems to have put a lot of effort into his attempt to provide a good answer). I'm hoping that someone else will "pick up the ball" and answer the second question by providing references to relevant studies, but if not then at least there's partial progress with answering the first question anyway. May 24 '11 at 23:22

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