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.