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Things not to say to a depressed person

There are some things which you just shouldn't say when someone tells you that they are depressed, even if you mean well. I am going to go through some of the most common things people will say to a depressed person and highlight why you shouldn't say them.

 
Photo by Ben White on Unsplash
 

1) There is always someone worse off.

Speaking for myself, even when I'm at my lowest I already know that there are people worse off than I am. When I hear this, all I'm thinking is "No shit, Sherlock! You think that hasn't crossed my mind already?"

In any case, telling someone who is depressed that others have it worse only invokes feelings of guilt and despair. Even if is true, it doesn't mean that their problems are invalid or insignificant.

2) Suck it up.

Variations of the above will include pull yourself together, snap out of it etc. Such a response just comes across as dismissive and uncaring. It is already difficult for a lot of people with depression to open up and talk about how they are feeling. If they are showing enough trust in you to be upfront about what's on their mind, don't throw it back in their face with a casual shrugging of shoulders. This only makes it harder for them to seek help when they need it most.

3) You need to be more positive!

This shows a lack of understanding of mental health issues and places the blame at the door of the person who is depressed. While some forms of therapy, such as CBT, focus on addressing negative thought patterns and challenging them accordingly, this isn't something that happens overnight. It takes a lot of time and a lot of effort, it's not as simple as just flicking on a switch.

4) Things will get better!

I'll admit I've been guilty of using this one myself. You might be trying to offer them a glimmer of hope, but it's not really helpful in the present moment. When someone is depressed it is often hard for them to maintain a positive view of the future. They may also be frustrated with having to wait for so long until things do "get better". Instead of trying to get them to focus on the future, first help them to focus on the present. Even if it's just by listening.

5) It's all in your head.

This brings me back to my second and third points. It just implies that depression is something that you can "snap out" of and shows no real understanding of what it means to be depressed.

Although depression is a mental health condition, there is evidence to suggest that there are biological factors involved and it can also manifest itself via physical symptoms such as fatigue.


Photo by Zoltan Tasi on Unsplash



So what can I say to someone who is depressed?

You don't have to say anything. As mentioned, sometimes just listening can help. A couple of things you could say however are "I'm here for you" or "Would you like to talk about it?". It doesn't matter if you don't have much in the way of advice, the main thing is that you show you care and you are willing to support them in whatever way you can.

If you are concerned that somebody in your life is in distress, have a read through the following guides on what you can do to help.

HelpGuide - Helping Someone with Depression
https://www.helpguide.org/articles/depression/helping-someone-with-depression.htm

Healthline - Not Sure What to Say to Someone with Depression?
https://www.healthline.com/health/what-to-say-to-someone-with-depression

NHS - How to help someone with depression
https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/signs-someone-is-depressed/

Are there any other phrases you, as someone with depression, are sick of hearing? Perhaps you would like to add something else to the list above? Feel free to add your own thoughts in the comments section.

Warmest regards,

Jamie x

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