Never Say These Things to a Person with Depression

Depression affects more than 350 million people and is the leading cause of disability around the world, according to a recent update from the World Health Organization (WHO).

Many people struggle to know the right words to say to a depressed person. Most comments are well-intended, but common platitudes and useless advice can often make matters worse.

If you’re wondering what to say (and what NOT to say) to a depressed person, here are a few suggestions:

 

What NOT to say: Keep your chin up. Stay positive. Smile!

Why: Your friend is likely to hear this as a judgmental comment. It’s good to be encouraging, but for a depressed person, putting on a brave face and a forced smile is very difficult and can be harmful.

Say this Instead: You’re important to me. I care.

 

What NOT to say: You have so much to be happy about. What reasons do you have to be depressed?

Why: Your friend probably doesn’t know why she is depressed and she may struggle with depression even if her life appears to be perfect. Even a great job, money, friends and success can’t prevent depression or make it go away.

Say this Instead: I’m so sorry you’re struggling. Tell me what I can do to help.

 

What NOT to say: Just snap out of it!

Why: Don’t assume you know how your friend feels unless you’ve been seriously depressed. Don’t pressure your friend or create guilt trips that will make him feel worse.

Say this Instead: Your feelings are valid. I’ll do my best to understand what you’re going through.

 

What NOT to say: You need to get out more and have some fun.

Why: Your friend is exhausted and doesn’t feel like socializing. Getting out more isn’t likely to help.

Say this Instead: I’m sorry you’re dealing with this. Would you like me to come over? We can sit and talk or go for a walk.

What NOT to say: It’s all in your mind. You can choose to be happy.

Why: Depression isn’t simply a bad mood; it’s a biological disorder, possibly related to an imbalance of natural chemicals in the brain. Your friend isn’t choosing to feel this way.

Say this Instead: I know you’re having a rough time. I believe in you.

 

What NOT to say: You’re bringing me down!

Why: This isn’t about you. Your friend probably already feels guilty about how her depression is affecting her friends and family. The last thing she needs is to feel responsible for your feelings.

Say this Instead: You’re never a burden to me. I’m always here for you.

 

What NOT to Say: Have a drink; it will cheer you up.

Why: People with depression are more likely to develop an addiction to alcohol and drugs than people without depression and encouraging them to self-medicate with alcohol is a very bad idea. For many people, it results in addiction and the need for drug and alcohol treatment or rehab. Substance abuse never the answer.

Say this Instead: Advise your friend to seek counseling if his anxiety is out of control. If he is already self-medicating with drugs and alcohol, encourage him to seek addiction treatment as soon as possible.

Treatment: Counseling, Meds and Rehab for Depression

If you have a problem with depression or if you’re concerned that a loved one is showing symptoms, take it seriously, even more so if the symptoms include thoughts of suicide.

The good news is that depression is treatable. Antidepressant medications can be helpful, especially when used in conjunction with counseling. If depression is severe, consider checking into rehab or residential care for depression.

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