What Not To Say To Someone Who Is Struggling With Depression

If you've ever had a friend or loved one come to you to talk about struggles they're experiencing with their mental health, you know how difficult it can be to know the right thing to say. When it comes to talking to a friend or partner with depression, you want to help without risking making their situation worse. Towing this line can be difficult for anyone.

There are different types of depression, and major depressive disorder is the most common (via Healthline). If you find that you're experiencing sadness, low self-esteem, and hopelessness and struggling to get out of these low spirits, you're likely in the middle of a depressive episode, and this may be a result of major depressive disorder (via Mayo Clinic). According to the National Institute of Mental Health, in 2020 alone, approximately 21 million American adults experienced a depressive episode. Some folks even struggle with persistent depressive disorder, which means that their depressive episodes last for years at a time.

If someone you know has depression, ensuring that they have the love and support they need from those around them can make a huge difference. Choosing the right sentiments when talking to your loved one matters.

Statements that can be harmful

Everyone is different and needs different things from their support system when they're struggling. For this reason, there's really no hard and fast rule for what will make someone feel comforted and supported during a tough time. There are, however, some things you may be tempted to tell your loved one that tend to make things worse for people with depression. It's important to remember that not every instinct you have is one you should follow. 

Many people who don't understand depression are inclined to say things like "other people have it worse," or "things aren't as bad as you think" (via Verywell Mind). Keep in mind that peoples' feelings are valid, and statements like these make it seem like you think that your loved ones' feelings are an exception to that rule. If your loved one is feeling depressed, they're very likely experiencing feelings of guilt along with it; the last thing you want to do is make them feel guiltier. 

You should also avoid saying things like "just get over it" (via Intrepid Mental Health). Your loved one certainly wishes that alleviating their depression symptoms was as easy as "getting over it," but it isn't. Remember that depression is a mental illness, which is different from simply being in a bad mood. You should also make sure that you don't blow off what your friend is saying just because you don't know how to respond. Don't rush through the conversation.

What to say instead

Ultimately, if you truly care about the person you're talking to, you should be happy that they feel comfortable coming to you for support. A great rule of thumb is to make sure that everything you say makes them feel that they can come to you again in the future. 

Often what you say isn't important as how well you listen. Allow your friend to share their feelings with you without interruption, and if they don't seem ready for that, say something like, "I'm here if you ever want to talk" (via Healthline). This lets them know that you want to support them without applying pressure.

Sometimes, it's okay to lean into the fact that you don't know how to handle the situation. Asking something like, "how can I best support you?" gives your loved one the opportunity to tell you what they need (via Verywell Mind). It also helps to tell them how well they're handling the situation. When you have depression, it's easy to be overly hard on yourself. Remind them that those thoughts aren't reality. If all else fails, it never hurts to tell your loved one that you care about them. That simple sentiment can go a long way.

If you or someone you know needs help with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.