The Do's and Don'ts of What to Say to Someone Who Is Depressed Skip to main content

Depression is a universal mental health condition that impacts an individual’s daily life. It affects the thoughts, takes a toll on the emotions, and injures the ability to function right. It is an emotional state far and above mere sadness. It is more like a never-ending sense of despair. Depression is an ailment that can totally debilitate you.

The consequences of untreated depression can influence physical health, resulting in detrimental personal and professional life.

Given that, the role of supportive communication is highly important. Words have the power to heal or harm. The right words can provide solace and pave the way for recovery. Contrastively, ill-considered words can intensify feelings of isolation.

Acknowledge their Pain and Struggle

First and foremost, it is crucial to engage in meaningful dialogue with someone facing depression. Depression is a clinical disorder characterized by a loss of interest in enjoyable activities.

It differs from the common emotional dips that everyone experiences. Its intensity and duration are so severe that it impairs the person’s ability to perform everyday activities.

So, to begin with, you must first identify the routine ups and downs of life to avoid diminishing the person’s experience. Before starting a conversation with someone who is depressed, your initial goal must not be to fix the problem but to convey empathy.

Before you offer them any advice or solutions, acknowledge their feelings. Validate their struggle. It is a good way to develop trust. And once you show them ample support, acknowledge their pain without judgment.

Express Empathy and Validation

Showing empathy is one way to communicate effectively with a depressed individual. Validating their feelings is a way to convey that their emotions hold value. It’s a way of saying, “I hear you, I see you, and what you’re feeling is important.” This can be immensely comforting to someone who feels misunderstood.

Example Phrases to Convey Empathy and Understanding

“I cannot even imagine what you are going through right now. It is excruciating. But I want you to know that I’m here.”

“Your feelings are real. It’s only good to vent them out. You don’t have to go through this alone.”

These phrases create a safe space for the person to share their feelings. They realize that the last thing you may do in the conversation would be to judge them.

Offering Support and Availability

You can make all the difference just by being there for a depressed person. You offer comfort just by assuring them of your supportive presence. This support can be a lifeline for them. Especially when disconnected from others due to their depression.

Suggest Phrases That Communicate Willingness to Help

“You know that I’m here for you, whenever. We can just sit quietly. Just know that you have me. And I’m all ears if you like.”

“You’re not alone in this. I’m just a phone call away. Always. And I mean it.”

“I genuinely care about you. And I really want to help you. Just let me know what you feel would be helpful.”

By offering your support, you give them hope. And hope, in such times, can be incredibly empowering. In fact, you reinforce the idea that they don’t have to struggle alone.

Encouraging Professional Help

There is no denying the fact that personal support is invaluable. However, there are instances where professional intervention is a must-have. Professional mental health practitioners have the expertise to provide appropriate treatments. It can be through therapy and medication, depending on the person’s situation.

Ways to Suggest Professional Help Sensitively

  • Empathize First: Acknowledge their pain before suggesting help. “I can see you’re struggling. And I genuinely care about your well-being.”
  • Suggest, Don’t Insist: Frame the suggestion as an option, not an ultimatum. “Have you thought about talking to some expert? Maybe they will know better how to come out unscathed?”
  • Offer to Help: Make the process less discouraging by offering help. “If you’re open to it, I can help you find someone to talk to or visit?”

By broaching the subject with sensitivity, you will develop a sense of empowerment rather than pressure. It will make the individual more open to accepting your help.

Providing Hope and Positivity

Instilling hope in someone with depression needs to be handled with care. You need to strike a balance between acknowledging their current state and giving them a perspective that things can improve.

Phrases That Inspire Hope Without Dismissing Their Current State

“It’s okay to feel this way. I understand you’re going through a lot. I believe in you. I’m right here always.”

“Your feelings are justified. You are so brave to face them courageously. Remember, it’s completely normal to ask for help. We are all here for you. I am here.”

Such phrases aim to reassure the individual that their feelings are acknowledged while gently introducing the idea that recovery is possible, fostering a sense of hope and resilience.

What to Avoid Saying

When you communicate with someone experiencing depression, be wary. Certain phrases can be unintentionally counterproductive or misfire. These can undermine the person’s feelings. Worse yet, it can intensify their sense of isolation.

Phrases and Attitudes to Avoid

“Just snap out of it.” You suggest to the depressed individual that depression is a choice. Or that it is something that can be overcome with willpower, which is not the case. It can make the person feel guilty for their condition.

“Others have it worse than you.” While this might be intended to provide perspective, it can invalidate the person’s pain and discourage them from expressing their feelings.

“You just need to be more positive.” This oversimplifies depression as a matter of negative thinking, ignoring its complex causes.

Such statements can make the individual feel misunderstood. Consequently, they will be all the more reluctant to share their feelings. And, by extension, divert from the path to healing.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the best things to say to someone who is depressed?

The best things to say are those that express empathy and understanding. Phrases like “I’m here for you,” “Your feelings are valid,” and “It’s okay to feel this way” can provide comfort and support. It’s crucial to listen actively and validate their experiences without trying to fix their problems immediately.

How can I offer help to a depressed friend or family member without being intrusive?

Offering help can be done gently by suggesting rather than insisting. Saying things like “Would you like to talk about it?” or “I’m here if you need me, anytime” can show your support without putting pressure on them. It’s also helpful to offer specific forms of assistance, such as helping with daily tasks or accompanying them to a doctor’s appointment.

What should I avoid saying to someone who is depressed?

Avoid phrases that minimize their feelings or suggest quick fixes, such as “Just snap out of it,” “Others have it worse,” or “Try to be positive.” These statements can make the person feel misunderstood or belittled. It’s important to acknowledge the seriousness of their condition and avoid making comparisons or offering unsolicited advice.

Wrap Up

Show them compassion and respect for someone struggling with depression. Use the guidelines we’ve discussed to offer a comforting word. Lend them a listening ear and a supportive presence. Remember, your role is not to fix their problems. You are there to stand by them. Your role is to offer light in their darkest moments.

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