Has a friend or a loved one recently confided in you they are depressed, down on their luck, or deeply unhappy?
It can be difficult to even know how to respond to this confession. That said, it is very important to choose your reply carefully, as you do not want to make them feel worse than they already do.
There are even a few things that you could say that could drive a truly depressed person over the edge.
Though we are not generally taught how to best comfort someone who is suffering from depression or a similar disorder, it is never too late to learn.
Whether you know someone who is a depressed person or not, read on to learn ten things not to say to them, and what to say instead.
What Not to Say to a Depressed Person
The first step in determining what to say is to think about what you would want to hear if the tables were turned.
Moreover, try not to go with the first thing that comes to your mind when someone tells you they are struggling.
Think closely about what you say, don’t make it about yourself, and sometimes the best thing you can do is listen. Here are a few others things never to say.
1. “Just Cheer Up!”
Telling a depressed person simply to cheer up is absolute nonsense. Depression is a chronic condition and often occurs over the course of weeks and months.
Depression is anything but temporary, and watching a funny movie or sitting in the sun will not make it go away.
It is not the same as feeling sad, as these tactics may work for someone who is experiencing that.
Instead of telling them to cheer up, take steps to make them feel better in their preferred way.
After they talk with you about their condition, ask them about what they would like to do rather than assuming what would make you feel better. Also, remember it will talk them time to heal.
2. “I Can’t Imagine How You Feel Right Now”
This statement can make someone feel further isolated, and it states the obvious.
Moreover, do not try to compare clinical depression to losing a job, going through a breakup, or any other similar life events.
Even losing a loved one is not necessarily a reasonable comparison for someone that is struggling, and it is a better idea not to compare anything at all in your own life.
Instead, if you don’t know what else to say, try to let them know that. Then, always reassure them that they can talk to you without judgment.
3. “Stop Playing the Victim”
Depressed people can be commonly misunderstood as attention-seekers. Though there may a small number of people out there pretending to feel depressed for attention, it is vital not to make any assumptions about this.
A truly depressed person does not think they are the victim, or that the world revolves around them.
Do not remind them of either of these things, it does not bring any amount of comfort, and can come off as condescending.
Rather, remind them even through tough times, you want to help them in any way you can.
4. “Life Just Isn’t Fair”
Even in people that aren’t suffering from a disorder, this usually isn’t a great thing to tell someone.
Life may be unfair, or fair, but it truly doesn’t make someone feel any better. In fact, it can just push them further over the edge.
Bad things can happen to good people, but that doesn’t mean you need to make sweeping statements about the goals of the universe.
5. “Why Don’t You Go Have Some Fun?”
Again, going out and having a good time will not cure depression in anybody. While they may have a good time with you, it usually is fleeting.
Over time, spending time with loved ones and engaging in fulfilling activities can make them feel better. But, there is no quick fix for depression.
6. “It’s All in Your Head”
First of all, everything that we are is in our head. In fact, we are our head, and all of our feelings come from there.
Using this statement to invalidate someone’s feelings is wrong, and it is better to not say anything at all at that point.
However, if you want to help, try not to force them into a different perspective on life. Even if you may seem the good in people and activities, they may not.
7. “You’re Really Dragging Me Down”
Do not turn an intimate conversation about a loved one’s depression about yourself. This is the quickest way to push them in the wrong direction.
Even if you don’t like how the person is making you feel, it is important to come from a place of love and understanding rather than selfishness.
Try not to let their emotions control your own, while still prompting an important discussion.
8. “Why Do You Want to Be Depressed?”
Someone does not choose or want to be depressed. Rather, it is often due to events out of their control, or possibly a chemical disorder in their brain.
Therefore, do not allow yourself to judge them in a negative way, as depression should be looked at similarly to any medical condition.
9. “So Many People Have it Worse”
Knowing that there is someone out there hurting worse than you does not make you feel any better about your own.
As well, someone who is depressed is not going to “snap out of it.” It is a true medical condition and should be thought of as such.
People do not need to be reminded that there is someone worse off, or that they are ‘lucky’, or that they ‘should be grateful’.
Saying anything like this is simply an attempt to invalidate how they are feeling when in reality their feelings should be brought into the open.
10. “What Is Wrong with You?”
The last thing not to say to a depressed loved one is “What is wrong with you?” This can put them into even more pain, and make them feel isolated and misunderstood.
Rather, do not make them feel like there is anything particularly wrong or right about what they tell you.
Simply listen, and tell them you are here for them without judgment. Encourage them to get more help from a therapist as well. Here more info about online therapy for depression, and how it can be helpful.
Final Thoughts on Helping a Friend with Depression
All and all, remaining aware of what you should and shouldn’t say to a depressed person is a vital skill.
The first step is to think carefully about what you say, and how you choose your words. You do not want to convey the wrong statement.
Most importantly, you want to remind the person you love them and care about them, and they are an important part of your life.
For more information on mental health, check out our post on how to improve your mental health without immediately seeing a doctor.