If you know someone who’s struggling with depression, it can be tough to know what to say. You may feel awkward, unsure, or worried about saying the wrong thing. But the truth is, coming from a place of empathy and compassion is always a great way to approach the situation. Those struggling with depression want to feel heard and supported — just like everyone else. If you’re not sure where to start, we’ve listed a few ways to open a conversation with your loved ones who are dealing with depression. So you can support their mental health journey with understanding and compassion.
“I care about you.”
Those struggling depression can often feel unworthy of care, or guilty when they do receive it. It’s important to stay aware of these feelings, so you can approach conversations with care, compassion, and empathy. It doesn’t have to be complicated — simply saying “I care about you” or “You matter to me” is a way to show love, affirmation, and to open the space for connection. Always ask if they’re comfortable with physical affection before offering a hug or a hand hold. If yes, these can go a long way in showing you care.
“How can I support you today?”
You may not know exactly what your loved one needs while they’re struggling with depression. Rather than guessing, it’s best to ask as everyday is different. While one day they may need hugs and laughs, the next they may prefer time alone to themselves. This can be particularly helpful on days where they’re experiencing symptoms like fatigue, trouble sleeping, or eating. The tiredness can lead to lack of motivation and can make it extremely difficult to complete tasks like making a meal, or getting to work on time. In these situations, you can support with practical ways to help them get through their day, like grabbing dinner or calling to ensure they’re awake and getting ready for work. Sometimes support won’t look like this at all! Sometimes it’s as simple as spending time together or sharing a laugh. Remember — it’s easy to assume you know what they need, but it’s always best to ask.
“I’m here to talk, whenever you’re ready.”
Creating a space for conversation can be extremely valuable for a loved one struggling with depression. While we can’t guarantee the person will be comfortable to discuss their struggles, we can lend an empathetic listening ear when, and if, they choose to open up. Sometimes they might not even want to talk about the issue at hand — they may prefer friendly conversation or a good laugh to take their mind off their struggles. That’s okay too. Just knowing someone is there to chat when they need it creates a strong sense of support, which is especially important on their tougher days.
If you’ve opened up a conversation about their mental health, remember to be patient and give them space to speak. They may need time and silence to collect their thoughts. Be an active listener, ask questions, and try to understand where they’re coming from. You don’t have to pretend to have all the answers or offer up advice either — just hear them out and be supportive of their experiences.
“I’m sorry you’re going through this. It sounds really tough.”
Validating someone’s feelings is powerful. Those struggling with depression can often feel like they’re overreacting, making it all up in their head, or guilty for feeling the way they do considering all the good in their life. By validating their feelings, you’re saying it’s okay to not be okay — no matter their circumstance. Simply feeling the way they do is reason enough. Validating their feelings can help get past the blocks that often stop someone from reaching out for professional help when they need it. It’s important to avoid downplaying or judging their feelings or experiences. Remember, you’re not a doctor or mental health professional. So while it’s great to validate feelings, offering advice can often do more harm than good. It’s best to leave that to the professionals. Just focus on being a support system.
“Would you like me to support you in finding a counsellor? Would you feel more comfortable if I go to the doctor’s office with you?”
Connecting to resources can be a big hurdle for those struggling with depression. You should never force someone to get professional help, but if they’re comfortable with it, it’s great to support them through the process. This can look like making appointments, doing research on local or online counsellors, or driving them to local resources.
Approaching the conversation
It’s not always easy to know what to say when a friend or family member is struggling with depression. You want what’s best for them and it can be nerve wracking knowing what the ‘right’ thing to say is. Know that there is no perfect thing to say, or way to approach a conversation — as long as you’re going into it with empathy and a willingness to be open and understanding, you’re on the right path. We hope these examples will help spark a conversation, and open a space for support.
If a loved one is struggling with depression, Wellin5’s online therapy platform can help. We match clients with a specialized counsellor who can meet unique needs and challenges — so your friends and family can get the help they deserve. Sign up today.