What NOT to say to a friend with depression: A gentle reminder
By Emily Hagan | Published on Oct 18, 2023
If you have a friend who is battling depression, it’s natural to want to help them in any way possible. However, it’s important to remember that your well-intentioned words can sometimes do more harm than good.
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Understanding and sensitivity are key when it comes to supporting someone with depression. That’s why it’s crucial to choose your words carefully, avoiding phrases that may exacerbate their condition. Here are some things you should refrain from saying to a friend struggling with depression, along with alternative ways to express your empathy and support.
Don’t say: “Don’t be sad, this is just a phase”
Depression is not a fleeting emotion that can be easily brushed off. It is a complex condition influenced by hormonal imbalances, genetics, trauma, stress, and other factors. It is not within the sufferer’s control to simply “snap out” of it.
Instead, say: “Sounds like it’s really hard, how are you coping?”
Acknowledging the difficulty of their situation and asking about their coping mechanisms shows empathy and understanding.
Don’t say: “Let’s go out for a party, you’ll get over it”
Depression often comes with sleep disorders, fatigue, and weakness, making it challenging for individuals to engage in social activities. Suggesting a party as a solution demonstrates a lack of understanding and fails to provide the support they truly need.
Instead, say: “I know you’re not in the mood to go out. How about we watch a movie together or just talk or have a meal together at home?”
Offering to spend time with them in a comfortable and familiar environment shows that you care and are willing to provide emotional support.
Don’t say: “Your life is perfect, why are you sad then?”
Depression does not always stem from visible struggles or life events. It can affect anyone, even those who seem to have everything together on the surface. By dismissing their feelings due to their apparent “perfect” life, you invalidate their emotions and fail to address their inner turmoil.
Instead, say: “I want to assure you that I am not here to judge or give my opinion. I’m just there for you.”
Reassuring them that you are non-judgmental and there to support them can create a safe space for open communication.
Don’t say: “Don’t go to a psychiatrist, they’ll just put you on pills”
Encouraging professional help is essential, as depression often requires medical intervention. Discouraging someone from seeking assistance can hinder their path to recovery.
Instead, say: “Your feelings are valid. I understand them, but I’m a little concerned. Will you seek professional help?”
Expressing concern while emphasizing the importance of professional assistance can motivate them to consider seeking the help they need.
Don’t say: “It’s all in your head”
Depression is not a figment of imagination; it is a legitimate clinical condition that requires understanding and support. Invalidating their struggle can further isolate and discourage them.
Instead, say: “You’re important to me, and you can count on me to listen to how you feel.”
Reassuring them that you value their emotions and are there to lend an empathetic ear can provide a sense of comfort and trust.
Remember, if you know someone battling depression, keeping these points in mind will enable you to support them in a more compassionate and understanding manner.