Depression is hard for the person suffering with it, but it’s also hard for those who love and care for them. We want to help, but so much of depression is hard to understand that our words may do more harm than good. The things we say to our depressed loved ones can help or hurt. Here are nine things that you can say to someone suffering from depression that will comfort and reassure them.
It’s Okay to Feel This Way
Telling someone that they’re not crazy when they feel like their life is out of control can be one of the best things you can do to comfort and show you love them. Acknowledging their pain and suffering is always a good way to start, because it shows them that you’re not there to try to fix them or apply a quick “get well soon” Band Aid. No one will ever feel worse by hearing you recognize that they’re having a hard time. You may not understand how they feel, but by acknowledging that what they’re feeling is real and not made up can be a great comfort.
Do You Want to Talk About It? I’m Ready To Listen
They may very well not want to talk about it, and you shouldn’t force them to, but by letting them know that you’re there for them and that you’ll listen to whatever they say, without judgement, can be strengthening and boost their confidence. It can form a stronger bond between you and them, and even if they don’t choose to speak with you right then, if you let them know that you’re always there if they ever need to talk, they might just take you up on the offer.
What Can I Do to Help?
Sometimes depression can take many different forms than just sadness. It can also make you freeze up, unable to do simple tasks–sometimes unable to get out of bed, or make breakfast, or clean the house. When you offer to help, really mean that you’ll help them with whatever the problem may be. They may not need a listening ear, but they may need someone to buy them milk at the store, or they may need someone to take their troublesome two-year-old to the park for a few hours. When you ask what you can do to help, make sure they know that you mean it.
How Are You Managing?
By asking them how they’re managing–not simply asking how they’re doing–you’re showing them that you acknowledge they are suffering from symptoms that need special coping and management skills. Asking “How are you?” might just get a “Fine” response, but asking how they’re managing, or asking how they’re coping, brings their depression to the forefront and lets them know that you’re not just making pleasantries–you really want to know how they’re getting by. It builds trust and may get them to open up to you about pent-up problems.
You’re Not Alone. I’m With You.
Being with someone and reassuring them that they’re not alone is one of the greatest things you can do for a depressed person. And you’ve got to mean it: if you tell them that they’re not alone, and then you leave to go shopping, they will get the message that your words are just meaningless. But telling them they’re not alone and then showing them, by sitting next to them on the couch, by staying up late with them when they’re crying, by walking with them to appointments or just going for a stroll–all of that shows that you mean it, and that can have a real impact.
You’re Important to Me
When someone feels depressed they may get the feeling that they’re worthless, that no one could love them, and that they’re a bad person. But when you tell them they’re important, and not just important to their family or their children, but important to you personally, then they’ll recognize you as one of the good guys, one of the people they can trust, one of the people that they might turn to in times of crisis. It never hurts to build a strong bond of friendship.
How Are You Coping?
Asking how someone is coping indicates that you know they have coping skills, either learned through experience or through a counselor or therapist. Asking them if they’re using these coping skills, and being aware of what they are, can help someone who’s depressed take the action to utilize those skills. Often, when depression feels strong, the thought of those coping techniques might seem useless or too hard, but if you show that you can help them with those skills–whether they be breathing exercises or grounding exercises or anything else–can really get them out of their funk.
I’m Really Sorry. I’m Here For You.
It’s important that these two phrases come together. Saying you’re sorry without saying you’re available might appear to your friend as though you don’t really mean it. On the other hand, saying you’re here for them without saying you’re sorry might not show the kind of empathy they need to hear. But when you combine them, they’ll know that they’re valued, that you care about them, and that you’re willing to give it your all to get them through it.
We Can Try Again Tomorrow
Sometimes depression just ruins a day completely and the person feels like a failure and a waste. Telling them that not only can they try again tomorrow, but we can try again–together–gives them hope, and nothing is stronger than hope when you’re trying to overcome depression. Sometimes a day is going to be bad, but that doesn’t mean we need to give up. Tomorrow will always come with fresh new possibilities, and you can face them together.