Of The Most Helpful Things You Can Say To Someone With Depression
Senior Wellness & Travel Editor, HuffPost
Depression has a way of being an all-consuming, monster of a battle. It takes a toll physically and emotionally. It’s often stigmatized. But perhaps one of the biggest struggles for those who suffer is the feeling that no one else in the world can truly understand what they’re going through.
However, those feelings of isolation provide one of the biggest opportunities for loved ones to help, explains Gregory Dalack, M.D., chair of the department of psychiatry at the University of Michigan.
“The key thing is to help the person know that you understand that they’re ill,” he tells The Huffington Post. “A lot of people view depression as some sort of character flaw. To let someone know that you understand that this is an illness that needs to be treated is important.”
The fact is, depression isn’t an easy fight — but you don’t have to suffer from it in order to be a source of comfort for those who do. If you’re looking to support someone with depression but can’t exactly figure out what to say, mental health experts offer the seven suggestions below — and explain why these types of phrases matter.
“I’m here for you.”
“It may look incredibly bleak for them right now,” he says. “It’s helpful to remind them that the feelings are temporary and you’ll be right there with them. Say, ‘It’s you and me against the depression, and we will win.'”
“This is not your fault.”
“What can I do for you?”
Nothing at all.
Know The Warning Signs Of Suicide
The risk of suicide is high in those living with depression. No matter what you say or what you do to help your friend, they may still experience suicidal thoughts and feelings. Make sure to be on the lookout for warning signs of suicide and know when to seek help.
Some signs to watch for include:
- Talking about wanting to die
- Expressing that they feel like a burden to others
- Feelings of extreme hopelessness and sadness
- Withdrawing from friends and loved ones
- Sudden mood swings
- Giving away possessions or making a will
- Making ambiguous statements about not being around in the future
- Open discussions about suicide or having a suicide plan
- Previous suicide attempts
If you spot warning signs of suicide, you should talk to your loved one and ask them to speak with a mental health professional. When there is an immediate risk, you should remove dangerous items from the home, make sure you don’t leave them alone, and get help from a medical professional immediately.
If you or someone you love are having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911.
For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.
Simple And Supportive Things To Say To Someone Struggling With Depression
People are often unsure of how to support a loved one dealing with depression. It can be like navigating a minefield: one false step and kaboom! Now youve made everything worse. But its really not as hard as it all seems. A lot has been written about this topic, but I wanted to approach this subject more simply, because its often the simple things that can make a difference to someone with depression.
But first, lets look at some things you should not say to someone with depression.
1. Think about all the people who have it worse than you.
At first glance, this may seem like an appropriate way to give a person with depression some perspective. Most likely, they arent dealing with a life or death situation, and many, many people in the world are. They should count their blessings, right? But heres the thing: Saying something like this to a depressed person will only make them feel worse. What it tells them is that they have no right to feel depressed because so many people are struggling more than them. This can trigger massive guilt and feelings of worthlessness.
2. Try exercise. Its a natural antidepressant.
3. You just need to change your attitude. Be more positive.
1. Take your time. Im here for you.
2. Celebrate the small things.
3. You are worth it.
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Look At The Bright Side
People who are depressed struggle to see or accept a bright side. Even if they do see the bright side, it may not make up for the dark parts that are contributing to the depressed mood. Looking on the bright side suggests the dark side can simply be ignored to solve the problem, but managing a depressed mood is not that simple.
Comparing Their Lives To Others
There are others who have it a lot worse. Youre so lucky. Your life is going so well compared to most people.
Again, I get it. You think that youre contextualizing their pain and reminding them of the good in their world in order to distract them from their depressive thoughts.
But reminding them of things to be grateful for is more likely to inspire guilt than to make them feel much better. Its their internal dialogue of, I KNOW Im supposed to feel better than I do, but I dont. And it fucking sucks, and now I feel even worse for feeling like Im so broken that I cant even appreciate the good that I intellectually know is in my life that wreaks havoc in their minds.
Believe me, people struggling with depression dont usually need to be reminded of what is good in their lives. Theyre well aware of it, and they feel guilty for not having the brain chemicals available to them to be able to feel gratitude for those things.
So, what do people struggling with depression need to hear?
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What If I Don’t Know What To Say
Don’t wait to talk just because you’re not sure what to say. You can keep it simple. You can start just by saying, “Got a minute? I need to talk.” Then say what you’re going through. For example, “I’ve been feeling down a lot lately. I think I might be depressed.” The person you’re talking to might ask you to tell them more. Sometimes, that’s all it takes to get started talking.
How Are You Managing Your Depression Would You Like Me To Visit The Doctor With You
Anyone who has depression should have a treatment plan. It may not always include medication, but it would consist of regular monitoring from a doctor.
Asking how they are managing can allow you some insight into their treatment plan. If they havent seen a doctor, offer to go along with them so that they will be more comfortable. Likewise, if they have seen a doctor, but their symptoms have worsened, offer to go with them again.
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When Good Intentions Go Wrong
It’s possible that you can say all the “right” things and your friend will still become upset with you. Every person is an individual with unique thoughts and feelings, and being angry and upset is the nature of depression.
Sometimes people will lash out at those trying to help them because they are hurting and don’t know where to direct those bad feelings. Whoever is nearby becomes a convenient target.
If this happens, try not to take it personally. Stay calm and continue to do what you can to love and support your friend in whatever way they will allow.
Happiness Is A Alternative/ Its All In Your Head
Individuals dont select to be depressed, Anderson says in Parade. Its not okay in charge or insinuate that an individuals dysfunction is their fault or that their psychological struggling is a alternative.
Once you body despair and happiness as deliberate selections, you oversimplify the difficulty at hand. Somebody going by means of despair is not going to really feel like they will merely cheer up or snap out of it.
If you end up wanting to inform somebody that their despair is solely inside their management, take into consideration this guideline from Healthline:
In the event you wouldnt say one thing to somebody residing with a bodily situation, like diabetes or most cancers, you in all probability shouldnt say it to your good friend with despair.
Would you inform somebody to snap out of a damaged leg? In all probability not.
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How Can Friends And Family Help
This information is for friends and family who want to support someone with depression.
The support of friends and family can play a very important role in someone recovering from depression. Here are some suggestions for how you can help.
- Support them to get help. You can’t force anyone to get help if they don’t want it, so it’s important to reassure your loved one that it’s OK to ask for help, and that there is help out there. See our pages on how to support someone else to seek help for their mental health for more information.
- Be open about depression. Lots of people can find it hard to open up and speak about how they’re feeling. Try to be open about depression and difficult emotions, so your friend or family member knows that it’s OK to talk about what they’re experiencing.
“The best things that friends and family can do is simply listen. They often don’t need to say anything, just being willing to listen to your problems makes you feel less alone and isolated”
- Keep in touch. It might be hard for your loved one to have the energy to keep up contact, so try to keep in touch. Even just a text message or email to let them know that you’re thinking of them can make a big difference to how someone feels.
“Talking… not even talking about how I felt. Just talking about stupid things that didn’t matter over coffee, without pressure and knowing that I can talk about the tough stuff if I want to.”
Tell Them You Understand
Before you tell someone “I understand,” you should be certain that you actually do. Have you ever experienced clinically significant depression? If you have, it may be helpful for your friend to hear that you have experienced what they are feeling and that it can get better.
Keep in mind, however, that there are several different types of depression, and even if you did experience clinical depression, it may have been very different than what your friend is going through.
If what you have been through was a case of the blues, on the other hand, your friend may feel like you are trivializing their experience by comparing it to yours.
In this case, it would be best to simply admit that you don’t understand exactly what they are going through, but that you care about them and want to try. Often, the best words to say are, “I don’t understand, but I really want to.”
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If You See Warning Signs
If you observe any of these warning signs in your loved one, encourage them to seek help from a mental health professional. If they refuse, be persistent. If they appear to be in immediate danger of hurting themselves, do not leave them alone, remove any possible means that they can use to hurt themselves, and get them to an emergency room as soon as possible.
What To Say To Someone Who Is Depressed
We humans are a complex bunch, and even with all the loving intent in the world it can be difficult to know what to say. Here are some places to start.
This isnt an ending. You can beat this.
The hopelessness of depression stands with its arms crossed, blocking the door to anything better. Thats how it feels. You probably wont be believed the first time you say this, but just keep saying it and believing it enough for both of you. Even if the way out feels blocked, youll at least be lighting the path.
This will help more than you realise but back it up with action. Call. Visit. Make contact. The very nature of depression means that the depressed person will be unlikely to reach out to you. Show them you have enough reach in you for both of you. It will make a difference.
Narrow your offer of help.
If you say, let me know what I can do to help, youre likely to get a nothing or just nothing back. Depression makes things seem pointless and overwhelming. Narrowing down your offer gives a starting point. Narrow down the time Ill meet you after your session/ therapy/ doctors appointment if you want, or the task What can I do to help with the kids?Ive made a curry. Theres heaps. Can I bring some over for you. Just throw it in the freezer if you want.
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Tips To Help Someone Who Seems Down
- Let them know you care and are there to listen.
- Accept them as they are, without judging them.
- Gently encourage them to help themselves for example, by staying physically active, eating a balanced diet and doing things they enjoy.
- Get information about the services available to them, such as psychological therapy services or depression support groups in their area.
- Stay in touch with them by messaging, texting, phoning or meeting for coffee. People who are depressed can become isolated and may find it difficult to leave their home.
- Try to be patient.
- Take care of yourself.
So What Must You Say To Assist Somebody Experiencing Despair
Dont let all of the phrases above discourage you from saying something in any respect. The important thing to supporting somebody fighting despair is to make it clear that you justre there for them. Deal with phrases that display unconditional care, not judgment. Listed below are some concepts you should use:
- Thanks for telling me.
- Im right here if you wish to speak.
- I really like you / Youre vital to me / Youre not alone.
- Have you ever spoken to about these emotions?
- This should be arduous for you, however youre doing the fitting factor by speaking about it.
- What can I do to assist?
When unsure, lean on open-ended questions and validating statements about what theyre going by means of. Typically probably the most useful factor you are able to do is just hearken to the one you love. You may as well bear in mind to check-in with them recurrently, even in the event that they arent in a position to reciprocate.
SAMHSAs National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP , or TTY: 1-800-487-4889 is a confidential, free, 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year, data service, in English and Spanish, for people and members of the family going through psychological and/or substance use issues.
If youre having suicidal ideas, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 for assist and help from a educated counselor. In the event you or a cherished one are in speedy hazard, name 911.
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How Can I Help
How can I help you? What do you need from me during this difficult time? What can I do to make your life even 1% easier?
Chances are, by the time the depressed person you love reaches out and lets you know that theyre hurting, theyve been hurting for a while, and theyve just mustered up the courage to speak to you about it. Doing this is already a huge step for them.
They may very likely feel like they have been carrying a metaphorical elephant on their shoulders, and they need to relieve some of the pressure.
Ask them, point blank, How can I help?
They may not have any ideas because they might feel so beat down and despondent that nothing feels like it could help. So get creative and offer up suggestions.
Do they need you to check in on them on a daily basis? Do they need you to bring them a home cooked meal a few times per week? Do they need you to buy them some new socks/do their laundry/hire a cleaner because they havent been able to leave their apartment for a week?
However it is that you can lessen their load, do it. Help them however you can. What might feel like a simple task for you may feel like its removing an unfathomably massive load from their shoulders.
Or maybe they dont need any help via chores or tasks, maybe they just want you to listen. Hear them. Hear their story. Hear what has been going on for them.
Other Ways To Be Supportive
Loved ones can support people with depression in many ways, but it is not possible to cure another persons depression.
While it may help to encourage a person to seek treatment, it is not possible to force someone to see a doctor or therapist.
Instead of trying to force a specific outcome, therefore, focus on cultivating a loving environment.
Some strategies that can help include:
- inviting the other person to do things that they once enjoyed
- using humor if it usually helps that person
- avoiding spending all of the time together talking about depression
- taking care of your own needs and setting boundaries if you feel uncomfortable
Avoid saying anything that dismisses the persons symptoms, judges them for their emotions, stigmatizes depression, or makes them feel hopeless.
Some examples of what not to say include:
People who love a person with depression may also need external support from friends, family members, or a therapist.