Offering advice and support to someone with depression can be very tricky and challenging. Even with the best of intentions, you may end up triggering their anxiety and make them feel more depressed. This can be especially difficult when you don’t fully understand what depression feels like. Hence, it is important that you express your support in the most understanding way possible.
In no particular order, here is a list of the 10 best and worst things you can say to a person with depression, and the reasons why you should and shouldn’t say them.
The Worst 10 Things You Can Say
1. Depression isn’t real.
At the end of the day, this is just plain ignorant. Depression is a serious illness that can affect every aspect of a person’s life. To belittle it in this way can be extremely offensive.
2. Just get over it.
People don’t enjoy being depressed. If they could just “get over it,” then they would.
3. You have a mental illness? Then you must be crazy!
Again, this is extremely ignorant. Mental illnesses are just like physical illnesses – you treat them and get better. Having depression does not make someone crazy.
4. I know how you feel.
This is OK if you have suffered from depression and you actually do know how the person feels. But if you haven’t, it can be really annoying.
5. We all have bad days now and then.
Depression is far more than just a “bad day”. It is a serious illness that can be life-threatening.
6. You can’t be depressed – there are so many people in the world who are worse off than you.
This is equivalent to saying “you can’t be happy, because there are so many people in the world who are better off than you!” Everyone is entitled to their happiness, in the same way, that everyone is entitled to their pain.
7. It’s all in your head.
This just isn’t helpful and can come across as very dismissive.
8. Look how lucky you are.
Again, depression is an illness. “Lucky” people can suffer too. In fact, if you read my memoir (available for free on my website), you’ll see that it is entirely possible to be very conscious of how “lucky” you are but at the same time feel miserably suicidal.
9. Just think positive.
Even the most positive people in the world can fall victim to depression. If you don’t believe me, again feel free to read my memoir. Over a four year period, I went through countless bouts of depression that almost led me to suicide, but there’s no way that you can read my story and deny that I’m a very positive person. This point goes back to that whole “depression is an illness” thing. Anyone can fall victim – positive people included.
10. Stop feeling sorry for yourself.
For the last time, depression is an illness. It can develop for a myriad of reasons, and certainly doesn’t imply that the sufferer is just wallowing in self-pity.
The Best 10 Things You Can Say
1. I love you.
People with depression often don’t love themselves, and thus find it impossible to believe that anyone else can. So if you do love someone who happens to suffer from depression, it can do wonders for them when you reiterate it.
2. I’m here for you.
This is what people with depression need – your support.
3. Is there anything I can do to make you feel better?
Again, the best thing you can offer them is your support.
4. Would you like to talk about what you’re going through?
Being willing to listen is great – just make sure you don’t pressure them into talking if they’re not ready to.
5. I don’t quite understand what you’re going through, but I’m here to support you anyway.
If you don’t understand, then that’s OK. Just say so and be there for them – instead of acting as you do.