Updated: Apr 1
Depression is much more than just feeling sad or lonely sometimes. We all go through periods of sadness and loneliness occasionally when something bad happens to us or those around us. A period of sadness or loneliness that typically lasts only a few hours or days. Depression, however, is a serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act, not just for a few hours or days but for weeks, sometimes even months or years.
When someone is depressed, there are things you should say and things you shouldn’t say.
Things you should say:
"I can see that you're having a difficult time."
Those suffering from depression feel better when they're understood and not judge.
“I’m so sorry for what you’re going through. Just know that I’m here for you.”
Depression is very isolating. Depressed people are likely to feel a bit better when they don't feel so alone in their pain. So, this is about letting them know that you care about them, that you're empathetic. And because you care about them, you are available for them. You are there for them. You are by their side. Because going through a difficult time is bad enough. Going through it alone is even worse.
“Are you thinking of hurting yourself?”
You should always ask a depressed person if they’re having suicidal thoughts or plans, because you could prevent a tragedy by getting them immediate help. You may not feel comfortable asking them, but if you truly care about them, about their safety, you definitely should.
“Let’s get you some professional help.”
Depression is a mental illness and it needs to be treated by qualified mental health professionals. Just like any illness, it won’t go away by thinking different thoughts.
Things you shouldn't say:
“Try to snap out of it.” Depression is an illness. A person suffering from it can’t just snap out of it. If that were possible, virtually no one would be suffering from it long-term, and no one would take their own life because of it. They need mental health help in the form of psychotherapy and often they’ll need medication as well to alleviate their symptoms and their suffering.
“Things are not so bad.” To the depressed person who feels helpless, hopeless and unable to see the light at the end of the tunnel, things are really that bad. When you minimize their experience you only make them feel worse. You showing that you don't care.
“It’s going to be okay.”
Oftentimes many say something along the lines of, “It’s going to be okay. Things will get better.” And sadly, many times despite our good intentions, this is one of the worst things we can say to them. This is because for many who are in pain emotionally, especially those suffering from depression, they don’t feel like things are ever going to get better. In their head, they’re probably thinking, “It’s easy for you to say because you’re not going through it. You’re not in my situation. You don’t understand. You will never understand.” They are suffering and that’s really all they are thinking about.