What to Say to Someone Who Is Depressed

By: Jayson Tripp, MD


Depression is isolating. Though it is one of the most common mental illnesses in America, those who experience it often feel like they are alone in the world. If you have a loved one suffering from depression, it can be difficult to know how to comfort them. Open and honest communication lets them know that you care. Here are a few tips on what to say to someone who is depressed, as well as some hurtful statements that should be avoided. 

Ask if They Feel Comfortable Talking 

If you suspect that someone you know is struggling with depression, reach out to them. Fear of embarrassment may be stopping them from seeking help. Approach the subject gently and ask whether they feel comfortable talking with you about what they’re going through. 

If they aren’t ready to talk, don’t force them into a conversation. Allow them to open up to you in their own time. Continue to offer your support by spending time with them and checking in with them regularly, either in person or over the phone. 

Remind Them That You’re There for Them 

Depression leaves many people feeling that no one understands or even cares enough to try to understand what they’re going through. Simply reminding your loved one that they have someone who cares for them can help them to feel a bit less lonely in their struggle. 

Remind Them That Their Feelings Are Valid 

Mental illness does not make someone “broken,” “weak,” or any less of a person. Remind your loved one that their feelings are valid and that their depression is just as real as a physical illness. 

Ask How You Can Help 

Though they may be reluctant to ask for or accept help, communicate that you are there for them in whatever way they need. This could mean being someone to talk to on difficult days or helping with housework and grocery shopping. Depression is taxing both physically and mentally, so even small acts of love and service can help someone experiencing it. 

Urge Them to Seek Professional Help 

If your loved one’s depression worsens or they begin to experience suicidal thoughts, they may require professional help. Encourage them to seek assistance and reassure them there is nothing shameful about asking for support. 

What You Should Not Say 

Knowing what to say to someone who is depressed is the first step to a meaningful conversation about depression, but it is equally important to consider what should not be said. 

  • “You’re just sad, you’ll get over it.” 

This statement oversimplifies the impact of depression. Depression is far more serious than periodic feelings of sadness, and in many cases, it is not something that the individual can simply “get over.”  

  • “I know exactly how you’re feeling.” 

This statement is a dismissive and belittling attempt at understanding the other person’s experience. No one truly knows how someone else is feeling. Instead of making assumptions, ask your loved one to explain how they are feeling and what you can do to help. 

  • “You have no reason to be so depressed.” 

This statement places the blame on the individual. Depression can be caused by several factors, including genetics, stress, and life events. It can also trigger feelings of shame, inadequacy, and guilt. Implying that someone’s depression is their fault or that it is unjustified will only make them feel worse. 

If you are wondering what to say to someone who is depressed, keep in mind that your encouragement is one of the most important things you can offer. Having someone to turn to for support and comfort can remind them that they are not alone. Strive to be that person for your loved one even on their most difficult days. 

If you or someone you love is struggling with clinical depression, know that there is hope. For more information on how to receive treatment for depression, contact us at Serenity Health Centers to schedule an appointment with one of our licensed psychiatrists  in your area.

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