The things people can say to someone who is depressed

woman looking at sea while sitting on beach

People can make unhelpful comments about depression and, while this may often be unintentional, they can be hurtful leaving people feeling unheard and isolated.

Personally I don’t like a lot of attention or fuss so when I do open up to say I’m struggling, it would be great to receive a warm, caring response rather than comments that are dismissive.

Depression is often dismissed because it is seen as being someone who is just a bit sad and we all get sad, someone who is self-obsessed, someone who needs to get a grip, someone who takes up time. But the truth is that it is a real life-affecting illness that may not have a solution – medication doesn’t always work and neither does yoga, exercise and eating healthily.

These are some of the comments I have received and heard about other people…

  • You seem fine to me
  • What have you got to be depressed about
  • Steven has it so much worse than you
  • You just need to change the way you think
  • Maybe think about other people for a change
  • If he did more exercise…
  • If you lost some weight…
  • Why don’t you just take some pills
  • Well, what’s causing it this time
  • Here we go again

So, what can help?

How to respond is not always easy so keep it simple and care. You don’t have to offer a solution and try to find a cause, just empathise.

Ask if there is anything you can do, sympathise, ask if they are accessing any support. Make a cup of tea or some food, write a note, buy flowers.

Have no expectations of how a person should respond – even answering a text can be almost impossible.

And if this is a person who truly matters to you, have a think about whether you are expecting too much and if it is all a bit one-sided. If you invite them along to gatherings and they keep saying no, it could be because there are too many people or it is out of their comfort zone. Could you do something else with them?

It can be really tough supporting someone who is depressed but a little bit of effort can make a huge difference.

janine signature

Working with parents since 2002

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