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What to Say to Someone with Depression: Things to Say and Not to Say

What to Say to Someone with Depression

Engaging in a discussion with a person who is experiencing depression can pose a considerable challenge. Their behavior is often significantly influenced by their depression, which may lead them to act in ways that seem unfair or unreasonable. When faced with such a situation, you might find yourself with two choices: either address the issue and hope that time will facilitate healing, or have an open conversation about the underlying issues.

Things to Say and Not to Say: Things You Should Never Say to Someone with Depression

In cases of postpartum or menopause depression, you might be better off just letting some time go by and hoping for the best.
Many reasons may prevent a person from being able to talk to a given person about depression, such as the inability to trust, feelings of shame, embarrassment, fear, etc. Gaining enough confidence for a person to be able to talk about their inner hell is very difficult and in some cases impossible.

The number one task is to accept the possibility that you may never be able to do it, have patience, and take it slow. Understandably, people who care about a person have an impatient and overtly positive outlook, however, for the most part, these people set themselves up for failure.

It may be a good idea to start with just simple unrelated topics that you know you enjoy conversing about already, get the conversation going, and slightly steer the topic in this direction. Keep in mind that you are getting close to a wound, so you need to be very careful and attentive to the way the person reacts to the conversation.

Your task is to open the door and invite the person to come in and know that it’s the best you can do. You can’t do the steps for him/her or try to push him/her to do the steps, you are likely to have more negative than positive outcomes. Metaphorically speaking, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.” You may think it’s a distasteful metaphor for this case, but it pretty much sums it up.

Things to avoid: 
  • Pushing
  • Saying things like “I know how you feel”, “Get over it”, “It’s all in your head”
  • Believing that once you have this conversation, everything is going to be fixed
  • Being angry or having outbursts of anger, because things aren’t exactly going as you planned
  • Slipping into depression yourself
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Initially, your efforts to have an honest conversation may not be rewarded; however, if the initial rejection is handled with composure, determination, and patience, it can pave the way for acceptance.

Things to Say to Help Someone with Depression

If you are unsure as to what are some good things to say to help someone with depression then do know that there are ways to approach an individual who is currently experiencing a hardship that is mental, emotional, or physical.

Depression is the result of a “shortcoming” or something that is preventing an individual from furthering them in life. Progressing relates to social, physical, emotional, and intellectual activity or how an individual feels as a whole.

The best way to approach the situation is by initially asking the individual how they are feeling and whether or not something is bothering them that they are uncomfortable telling you about.

They may not feel comfortable telling you because of the way that they think you will react. It may relate to their relationship with you or it may be the result of something that you could have had control over.

If it does relate to you then it is also your responsibility to act in a way that is sane and progressive. Avoid overreacting if their depression has to do with you and both of your relationships.

If it pertains to an outside force then comfort the individual and tell them that you won’t judge their feelings of depression and why they are experiencing them.

Everyone has experienced different things and people throughout their lives that have shaped them to be someone diverse, separate from you.

What are some good things to say to a depressed person that won’t backfire?

Ask them what is bothering them, and tell them that there is a way to overcome the feelings of hopelessness that they are enduring.

If it is a physical illness then you may have to frame your advice around their state of mind and how their optimism may aid them in recovering physically.

If it relates to an event that they have recently endured then tell them that many people have overcome situations; with strength, they have the means to be happy again.

The individual with depression should be reassured that there is hope in the world and that there is someone out there who truly cares about their very well-being.

Remind them of all the achievements that they have made so that they feel a bit more significant when it comes to the community.

Taking a genuine interest without judgment in a person will not often backfire; if it is necessary you can communicate with them through a letter.

The easiest way to understand what someone is going through is by questioning their feelings and then putting yourself in their shoes. Seeing life through the eyes of another will allow you to feel the same emotions and contribute empathy to the comfort that you are giving to them.

Don’t put too much pressure on the individual if they don’t have the strength to confide in you yet because they may just need time to heal and get over something that may have happened recently.

Let them know that you are there for them, and when they are ready to confide in you then you will help them throughout their depression.

What to Say to Someone Who Is Depressed: Examples

► "How can I support you through this rough time?"

► "Take all the time you need, I'm here if you need to talk."

► "No, you are not a burden."

► "Is there anything I can do to make today easier?"

► "Want to go for a ride and just listen to <Singer Name>?"

► "This sounds so hard, how have you been coping?"

► "Your feelings are valid, and this will pass, I don't know when, but it will."

► "I am so sorry you are going through this, just know that I Love You."

► "You are not alone."

Things Not to Say to Someone with Depression

There are certain things you should never say to a depressed person but it isn’t always easy to recognize whether a friend or relative is experiencing a depression that is affecting them severely. As an outsider or a peer to someone who is undergoing depressive thoughts, you should recognize that they may be covering up more than you are aware of.

If you have perceived them to be “sensitive” and more so than usual then it may be because they have recently endured a painstaking event. Depression is often a behavior that is uncommon with someone that you are close to and it’s a change in their level of activity, their optimism, focus, achievements, and the conversations that they have been having recently.

The first idea that you should consider is speaking to them about their feelings and digging into what may be bothering them.

Depression is the result of a post-traumatic stress situation, a sickness, or an idea that often comes from the thought that people cannot change the situation that they are currently enduring. There are certain things you should never say to a depressed person so that you do not further their feelings of hopelessness.

You should avoid a demeaning tone or telling the individual that they are not capable of doing something or overcoming a problem. The main cause of depression is feeling worthlessness or comprehending ill purpose; without purpose, the human race does not feel satisfaction or a part of a community.

You should avoid adding to the insecurities or lack of care that they may be expressing because you could be completely unaware of whether or not they are having suicidal thoughts or tendencies.

Be aware of small things that set them off and analyze their behavior a bit more; if there is a certain topic that they have been speaking of more than usual then it may be the root or consequence of their depression.

Avoid pessimistic words or advice because the way that you are acting is very contagious around someone who is currently feeling victimized.

Never relate the depressed individual to someone who may currently be in a better or more “successful” position, because it will inflate their feelings of weakness and worthlessness.

Some reasons for depression relate to failure and lack of ability - when a physical weakness or a mental trauma is keeping someone from growing then they do not want to be compared to someone who hasn’t undergone the same problem or pain.

Ask the individual if there’s anything that you can do to help them with their problem, as it may relate to their relationship with you. It's common sense when it comes to avoiding certain topics as you are aware of how much of an impact words can have on someone and the way that they perceive themselves.  

Avoid criticizing their way of thinking or their physical attributes and avoid making comments that will further lower their self-esteem.

What Not to Say to Someone Who Is Depressed: Examples

► "Just cheer up."

► "You're not depressed, you're just lazy."

► "Everyone feels down sometimes."

► "You have so much to be happy about."

► "Think positive thoughts."

► "You just need to get out more."

► "Snap out of it."

► "You're just looking for attention."

► "I know how you feel."

► "It's all in your head."

► "You're being dramatic."

These statements can be invalidating and dismissive of the person's experience. They can also make the person feel like they are not being understood or taken seriously.

If you are not sure what to say to someone who is depressed, it is best to simply listen. Let them know that you are there for them and that you care. You can also offer to help them find professional help if they are interested.


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