Depression affects approximately 320 million people worldwide. Although there has been more awareness surrounding mental health, it can be difficult to empathize and connect with someone if you haven’t experienced it personally. It’s essential to be sensitive and supportive when communicating with someone with depression. Here is a list of 10 things you should not say to someone with depression.
What not to say to someone with depression
- “Things could be worse.”
Even if this statement is true, it can be extremely insensitive and dismissive of the person’s feelings. This can sometimes cause more harm than good. If a person experiences severe anxiety, this may trigger panic and create anxious thoughts about what else could go wrong.
- “You have nothing to be sad about.”
Depression is a much more complex feeling than just being sad — and it’s not always related to external circumstances. Telling someone they have nothing to be sad about can invalidate their feelings and make them feel misunderstood.
- “You don’t look sick.”
Depression is often categorized as an invisible disability, alongside other mental illnesses like anxiety. Not everyone always shows it. It can be difficult to know who is dealing with it, and who isn’t — so it’s best not to make assumptions.
- “You’re just lazy.”
Depression can cause fatigue and a lack of motivation, making it difficult to carry out everyday tasks. This statement can make someone feel as though they are being judged and not taken seriously. It can also discourage them from seeking help
- “Other people have it worse than you.”
This statement minimizes a person’s lived experience and instills a sense of guilt. What can be most damaging about this statement is the breach of trust — making them feel like they can’t confide in you. In the long run, this can cause your loved one to become more isolated.
- “You’ll get over it.”
Depression and other mental illnesses are complex issues that can’t be resolved overnight. They are also not something to simply get over. Much like many other illnesses, it requires a great deal of time, patience, and professional care. Telling someone to get over it is like telling someone with a broken leg to run.
- “It’s all in your head.”
This is another classic example of what not to say to someone who’s struggling with depression. Depression isn’t a condition that’s imagined. It’s a real health concern that can make a lasting impact on someone’s mental and physical health. Physical symptoms include:
- Chronic joint pain
- Limb pain
- Back pain
- Stomach and GI issues
- Fatigue and tiredness
- Heart palpitations
- Changes in appetite.
- “I know exactly how you feel.”
Mental illnesses are unique to each individual. Although your goal with this statement is to empathize, it can take away from a person’s unique experience. Depression affects everyone differently, and it can be difficult to understand what a person is going through. That’s why it’s best to give them respect, space, and time to share their feelings.
- “Have you tried exercising or eating better?”
While exercising and eating more nutritious foods can help alleviate symptoms, it can be difficult for some people with depression to make healthy choices. This is especially true when dealing with the physical symptoms of depression, such as loss of appetite and fatigue.
- “You’re just being negative.”
Depression is not a matter of being negative or having a poor attitude, and negative thoughts caused by depression aren’t always controllable. Ruminations can appear out of nowhere, and it can feel nearly impossible to break the cycle.
How to support someone with depression
What is the best response to someone who is experiencing depression? These conversations are best approached with empathy, kindness, and understanding. Listen to your loved ones without judgment and offer support where needed. Avoid invalidating comments or suggestions that can make the person feel misunderstood, and above all, remember that depression is a medical condition that requires professional help, support, time, and patience. Try practicing these supportive statements:
- “I’m here for you.”
One of the most effective ways to support someone with depression is by letting them know you are there for them. Depression often makes people feel alone and isolated, and offering your presence and time can be a great relief.
- “It’s okay to feel this way.”
People dealing with depression often feel guilty or ashamed about their thoughts, feelings,and behaviours. Validating their experience alleviates the burden and puts the focus back on healing.
- “How can I help?”
If you don’t know how to help, it’s best just to ask. Since depression affects people differently, everyone will have different needs. Some might ask for advice, while others just want a listening ear. You can offer to help with day-to-day tasks too, like dropping off meals or driving them to a doctor’s appointment.
- “It’s okay to ask for help.”
People with depression often feel they need to handle things independently, even though depression is heavy to carry alone. Reminding and encouraging them to seek professional help can be among the most important, impactful, and empowering statements. Take it a step further by helping them connect with a counsellor or mental health professional.
- “I’m here to listen.”
Sometimes people just need someone to listen to them without judgment, interruption, or advice. Letting your loved ones know that you are willing to listen shows that you care and are available for comfort.
Navigate conversations with confidence
Knowing what not to say to someone with depression will help you navigate difficult conversations more confidently. Supporting a loved one with depression can be challenging but crucial for their well-being. While showing empathy and providing encouragement can be helpful, it’s important to remember that depression is a mental health disorder that requires professional support. Seeking help for depression can offer a safe and non-judgmental space to talk about emotions and experiences. It can help individuals feel heard and understood, reducing isolation and loneliness.
Get professional support for depression
A mental health professional can provide support and resources to manage symptoms and develop coping strategies. Through therapy and medication, individuals can gain a better understanding of their emotions, identify triggers, and learn healthy ways to manage their thoughts and feelings. Ignoring depression or trying to manage it alone can lead to further isolation, worsening symptoms, and even suicidal thoughts.Seeking help is not a sign of weakness; it takes courage to ask for support. By prioritizing your well-being and seeking professional help, you can begin to feel like yourself again. You shouldn’t have to struggle in silence. Our online depression counsellors are here to help every step of the way. Learn more.