What To Say (And NOT To Say) When Someone Is Depressed
Published on December 14th, 2021
Updated on March 11th, 2022
Having someone in your life who is depressed can be intimidating at times. You want to say the right thing but it is not easy to know what to say to help the person in front of you feel better. It is hard to know what to say to a person who is depressed, but one important thing to know is that it is not your responsibility to make a depressed person feel better. In fact, trying to make a depressed person feel better often does more harm than good.
Making a depressed person feel better is often not helpful, but what is? Helping a depressed person feel heard, understood, and supported can be much more meaningful than trying to help them not feel depressed anymore. The validation that comes from showing unconditional support means much more than being told to not feel what they are feeling. There are things that you can say when a person is depressed. Check out the list below for tips on what to say to a person who is suffering from depression.
What do you need from me?
Even if the depressed person does not know the answer, being asked can make a huge difference in how supported they feel. Being asked this question gives the depressed person a sense of authority in how they are supported, and helps them to feel like you are invested in their care and recovery.
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I care about you and your mental health.
Simply hearing “I care” makes a huge difference in a depressed person’s sense of hope and self-worth. That boost can be enough to motivate them to continue to try to manage their depression.
I am concerned about you, have you spoken to a mental health professional about how you are feeling?
It is important to gently encourage a depressed person to seek guidance from a mental health professional. Depression is a mental health condition that should be taken seriously, and requires professional attention and treatment to ensure the safety of the depressed person.
It is okay to not be okay right now.
Being given permission to not be okay means a lot to a depressed person. It gives them permission to feel what they are feeling without seeing themselves as hopeless, helpless or a burden. It is a validating statement that expresses understanding about how they are feeling.
I am here for you if you want to talk or need company.
Availability goes a long way for a depressed person. Knowing they have someone to turn to helps them to feel supported (even if they decide to not talk about how they are feeling or do not seek out your company right away).
You are important to me.
Hearing that you feel the depressed person is important to you can be enough motivation to prevent that person from engaging in risky or self-harming behaviors. Knowing that they matter to loved ones gives a depressed person hope and purpose, which can help them feel like their efforts to manage their depression make a difference.
What Not To Say To Someone Who Is Depressed
You are not expected to know the perfect thing to say to a person who is feeling depressed. There is not a specific thing a person needs to hear when they are feeling depressed. There are however, things that a depressed person definitely does not want nor need to hear when they are struggling with a depressed mood. Review the list below to learn what not to say to a person who is depressed:
Look at the bright side.
People who are depressed struggle to see or accept a bright side. Even if they do see the bright side, it may not make up for the dark parts that are contributing to the depressed mood. Looking on the bright side suggests the dark side can simply be ignored to solve the problem, but managing a depressed mood is not that simple.
Focus on the good things in your life.
A depressed person may still appreciate the good things in their life, but those good things do not make up for or fix the bad feelings that come with a depressed mood. Focusing on the positive is not typically helpful for someone who is depressed.
Have you tried…
While well-intended, offering solutions or methods of feeling better is not the best way to express support for a person who is depressed. People who are experiencing a depressed mood may not be ready to feel better, and that is okay. Pushing someone to feel better before they are ready can cause them to withdraw from loved ones.
This is all in your head.
A depressed mood happens because of circumstances that are not always easy to understand. Depression t is very real for a depressed person. They are not imagining how they are feeling, so it is not so easily summarized to say it is ‘all in your head.’ There is more to depression than mindset. Genetics, circumstances, stress, environment, support network, and chemical makeup all contribute to how a person experiences a depressed mood.
You are deciding to stay depressed.
Depression is not a mindset, and it is not a state of mind. It is a condition and an experience that is overwhelming. A person cannot decide to turn off depression, so hearing such words can feel very dismissive and uncaring.
There are people out there who have it much worse.
People who having it worse than the depressed person does not mean that they are not entitled to be suffering. A depressed person is not being dramatic or inconsiderate, Their feelings are real and powerful. To hear that people have it worse may imply that the depressed person is hopeless or not worthy of support, care, and the attention they need to feel better.