7 Things To Say To Someone With Depression

They say depression is the “common cold” of psychology — and for good reason, too! Affecting over 17.3 million adults in the United States alone, with thousands of new cases each year and many more left undiagnosed, depression is the most prevalent and widespread mental illness in the world (National Institute of Mental Health, 2017).

Women, adolescents, and people of lower socioeconomic status are at higher risk for developing depression, but it can happen to just about anyone (World Health Organization, 2020). Because research is still unclear as to the specific causes and exact nature of depression, there’s currently no way of preventing it, either. 

With that said, if you have someone in your life right now struggling with depression — whether it’s a friend, parent, sibling, or romantic partner — you might want to help them but don’t know how. Depression is a very sensitive matter and, no matter how good your intentions might be, you could end up saying the wrong thing and making them feel worse. So if you want to have a better idea about how to talk to someone with depression, here are 7 good examples for you to start with:

1. “I care about you.”

First and foremost, it’s important to let them know that you care about them. Assure them that they are loved, no matter what, and that they always will be. Because right now, they probably feeling terrible about themselves and wallowing in self-loathing. After all, one of the most debilitating symptoms of depression is intense feelings of worthlessness and suicidal ideation (American Psychological Association, 2013). So be sure to remind them that they are wonderful, that they matter to you, and that they are an important part of your life. Hug them, kiss them, or hold their hand if you can’t find the words to express just how much they mean to you. Just let them know that you love them and so do so many other people.

2. “I’m here for you.”

Depression is so terrifying and overwhelming that it can make a person feel more alone than they’ve ever felt in their lives. That’s why it’s so important for them to have a strong support system to help them cope (Lin, Dean, & Ensel, 2013). So if your friend, partner, or family member is depressed, make sure to tell them that you’re there for them and that you will stand by their side no matter how bad things might get.

Support your loved ones as much as you can, in all the ways that you can. Don’t let them isolate themselves or suffer in silence. Hold their hand and let them know that they’re not alone in their fight against depression, that you’re with them and cheering them on every step of the way.

3. “It’s okay to feel this way.”

Don’t make the mistake of asking someone why they’re depressed or what they have to be depressed about, because it’s only going to make them feel worse. If you really want to help them, acknowledge their struggle and let them know that it’s okay to feel this way, that it’s not their fault they have depression. Be their safe space and allow them to express themselves freely without fear of judgment, rather than invalidating their feelings in a misguided attempt to cheer them up or “help them see the bright side.” They don’t have to feel bad about feeling bad.

4. “What can I do to help you?”

Take an active part in your loved one’s struggle against depression and ask them what you can do to help. More often than not, depression drains a lot of our happiness and leaves us physically, emotionally, and mentally exhausted (Nyklicek & Pop, 2005). So it would mean so much to someone if you offered to share their load without ever making them feel like they’re a burden to you. Check-in on them from time to time, help them out with chores, cook them meals, go grocery shopping together, or walk their dog with them. Small acts of kindness can make a world of difference to someone with depression. 

5.Have you talked to a therapist about this?”

Perhaps one of the best things you can do for a friend or family member suffering from depression is to encourage them to seek help and reach out to a mental healthcare professional. According to the  National Institute of Mental Health (2017), up to 80% of patients seeking treatment for depression start to see improvement as early as 4-6 weeks, but nearly 2/3 of those diagnosed with the condition don’t. Psychotherapy (and, in certain cases, medication) is necessary to improve a person’s chances of recovering from depression, but because of the stigma against mental illness, a lot of people feel ashamed about having to see a psychologist. So it’s important that you support them and tell them that there’s nothing wrong with going to a therapist. 

6. “Do you need someone to talk to?”

If someone you care about is depressed, sometimes the best thing you can do for them is to just listen, especially when they can’t talk to their therapist about it. Letting them talk through their feelings can do them a lot of good and may help ease some of their emotional turmoil, so lend them an ear when they need it. Be sympathetic when they tell you what’s bothering them and keep an open mind. Attentive listening shows compassion and it’s good to refocus their attention and try to better understand the inner conflict they feel. 

7. “You can get better.”

Depression is a very real and very serious mental illness, one that affects millions of people all over the world. But it’s also highly treatable and chances of a successful recovery are very promising (Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, 2014). So make sure that your loved one never loses hope in their fight against depression.

There’s no easy fix for the way they’re feeling and it’s not going to happen overnight. There will be days when they feel like they’ve overcome it, only to fall into another depressive episode when they least expect it. But you should never give up on them and never let them give up on themselves, either. With a lot of patience, hard work, love, and support, things will get better. You can live a happy, healthy, and fulfilling life even if you never fully recover from your depression.

The truth is, there is no perfect thing to say to someone with depression. Nothing you say or do can cure them of their mental illness or take away their suffering, but it can make a world of difference to them all the same. Saying something positive and supportive can inspire your loved one to keep fighting and give them hope for better days to come. So don’t underestimate the power of a comforting word or gesture. . Be mindful of how your words and actions might affect them. And show them as much love, kindness, appreciation, and emotional support as you can give.

 

References:

  • National Institute of Mental Health (2017). An Overview of Depression. Retrieved 07 April 2020 from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/depression/index.shtml
  • World Health Organization (2020). Depression: Key Facts, Overview, Types & Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment. Retrieved 07 April 2020 from https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/depression
  • American Psychological Association (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – 5th Edition. Washington, DC; APA Publishing. 
  • Lin, N., Dean, A., & Ensel, W. M. (Eds.). (2013). Social Support, Life Events, and Depression. Academic Press.
  • Nyklíček, I., & Pop, V. J. (2005). Past and familial depression predict current symptoms of professional burnout. Journal of Affective Disorders, 88(1), 63-68. 
  • Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (2014). Statistics on Depression. Retrieved 07 April 2020 from https://www.dbsalliance.org/education/depression/

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