Knowing what to say and what not to say to someone with depression is not easy. A depressed person is usually very vulnerable and needs mindful and loving support. That is why you should be careful with your words when talking to a depressed person. This guide looks at what to say and what not to say to someone with depression.
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What Are the Best Things to Say to Someone with Depression?
Tell the Depressed Person You Care
Simple words such as “I care about you” can mean the word to a depressed person. Depressed people usually feel as if the whole world is against them. A gentle and warm hug can show that you care for them. Reach out to them and let them know that you think about them and they are important to you. It may sound awkward at first and if you are not sure what to say precisely, remember it does not have to sound poetic. Just express yourself in a compassionate way that will show you care for the person.
Ask How You Can Help Them
Depression is a significant burden to bear both mentally and physically. Probably there are a few things you could help out your friend with as they battle depression. Your friend may not readily accept your help, but you need to let them know you are willing and ready to help them out. The person may even be short of ideas of what to do so that you could help them with several suggestions. Be specific with the recommendations rather than giving them generic suggestions such as “what can I do for you?”
Tell Them They Are Not Defective or Weak
Individuals with depression feel like there is always something wrong with them or they are weak. Even though depression is a mental illness, some people feel it is a character flaw. You need to reassure the depressed individual that this is just an illness brought about by a biochemical imbalance in their brain. That does not mean they are weak. Tell the person that it takes strength to fight depression, and since they are fighting it, they are stronger than they know.
What Not to Say to Someone with Depression and Anxiety?
Telling Them to Cheer Up
If any depressed person would easily cheer up, they would do it more often. Telling them to cheer up only adds salt to the injury. Avoid telling these people common phrases such as:
- Just smile
- Think positively
- Snap out of it
Avoid bombarding them with motivational speech but rather emphasize understanding what they are going through and spend time with them, showing them they are valued.
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Invalidating Their Feelings
This is another thing you should not do to someone with depression. If a depressed individual opens up to you, give them a non-judgmental space to do that. Below are phrases you should never say to depressed individuals:
- All that is just in your head
- You don’t look sad
- People have gone through worse
- Stop bothering yourself
Dismissing someone’s emotions means they will not open up to you or assume you are dramatic. Instead, it would help if you told them things like:
- You are sorry they are in that situation
- Depression is not their fault
- Treatment can help, and they should seek the services of a professional therapist
Blaming depressed individuals because of their situation will only make things worse. In most cases, depression happens due to factors you have no control over. These could be age, stress, genetics, gender, serious illness, or brain chemistry. Uttering words that appear to blame them because of the situation demoralizes the individual, feeling helpless. It makes them feel like social outcasts. Instead, remind these people that it is not their fault they are depressed and they should not feel weak or like an outcast.
Know the Signs of Suicide
People living with depression have a high risk of committing suicide. It does not matter what you say to them; suicidal thoughts may still linger in their mind. Ensure you lookout for different signs of suicide among these depressed individuals. Some signs of depression may include:
- More talks about death
- Sudden mood swings
- Feelings of extreme sadness
- Saying that they are a burden to other people
- Making a will
- Withdrawing from loved ones and friends
- Previous suicide attempts
- Having discussions about suicide plans
Upon spotting any of these signs, act fast. Talk to the individual and let them know you care about them. Ask them to talk to a mental health professional. If you feel the risk is high, do not leave them alone or around dangerous places and objects.
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Depressed individuals are often mentally fragile, which means you should choose your words with them carefully. Make sure you know what to say to them at what time and what not to say to them. Help them get the support and help they need to recover from depression rather than victimize them. If you are depressed or know a depressed individual who needs professional help, we are always ready and willing to help them out.