Taboo, glamorized, and misunderstood, depression is not fully recognized as a mental illness across the globe. Although studies inform the mass that depression stems from a biological disposition, it is mocked and minimized. Often when a friend or loved one reveals to us that they are struggling with depression, we have been taught in our society to form conclusions and solve their problems. We believe we are helping them by giving them a list of things to do. During their hardship, the most human approach is comfort and give affection. Just listen.
Below, we have compiled a list of things you should never say to a depressed person. Uttering these words may cost your bond, drive someone to a deeper depression and create an irreversible distrust. Before we begin, we leave you with these wise words from Stephen Fry:
“If you know someone who’s depressed, please resolve never to ask them why. Depression isn’t a straightforward response to a bad situation; depression just is, like the weather.
Try to understand the blackness, lethargy, hopelessness, and loneliness they’re going through. Be there for them when they come through the other side. It’s hard to be a friend to someone who’s depressed, but it is one of the kindest, noblest, and best things you will ever do.”
1. It’s just a phase. You’re just sad.
Telling any human being how to feel or what they are feeling is the most condescending thing you could imply. When you diminish a person’s emotions and struggles, you also humiliate and invalidate their existence. Telling a depressed person, they are “just sad” is a violation of the trust they have given you. Don’t judge, simply listen. Many suffer in silence, and when someone confides in you, take their word.
What to say: I believe you.
There is no point treating a depressed person as though she were just feeling sad, saying, there now, hang on, you’ll get over it. Sadness is more or less like a head cold- with patience, it passes. Depression is like cancer.”
— Barbara Kingsolver, The Bean Trees
2. Other people have it worse. Life isn’t fair.
By claiming that there are people around the world who suffer in greater lengths than your loved one is an insult to their intelligence. Whether a person is depressed or not, this phrase should never leave your lips.
What to say: You matter to me. You are not alone.
3. It’s all in your head.
Again, you are minimizing this person’s struggle. You are invalidating their feelings and existence. Someone with depression already accuses themselves. When someone they confide in points a finger, they lose trust. It makes them feel far more isolated and alone in the world. This is the last thing you want to do.
What to say: I’m sorry you are hurting. I will not abandon you. Don’t worry about me.
4. You have no reason to be depressed.
Telling a person what to feel or how to feel is useless. The most important thing to do is to acknowledge someone’s pain and remind them that you are there for them. Depression is something a person can’t verbalize or intellectualize even to their most inner selves. They owe you no explanations, especially when they don’t have one..
What to say: I am here for you.
You say you’re depressed – all I see is resilience. You are allowed to feel messed up and inside out. It doesn’t mean you’re defective – it just means you’re human. — David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas
5. Just be happy.
Telling someone to cheer up is insensitive. It gives the message that you have no wish to understand or comfort them. It sounds harsh, but this is the truth. Asking someone to cheer up makes them uncomfortable in their own skin.
What to say: We are both here for each other.