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What Should You Say to Someone With Depression?

What to Say to Someone With Depression

If someone you care about has depression, you may feel overwhelmed or worried about how you can best support them. While you can't fix the situation, you can be compassionate and empathic- while also recognizing important risk factors.

Here are a few specific suggestions to consider when talking to a depressed friend:

What to Say to Someone Who Is Depressed

Before you say anything at all, it's important to understand the gravity of depression. If you aren't familiar with the common signs and symptoms, you risk coming across as inauthentic or even dismissive.

Here are some basic facts about depression:

  • According to the World Health Organization, 5% of the adult population has depression.

  • Depression is a real illness caused by both genetic and environmental factors.

  • Depression often underlies compulsive behavior like substance abuse or disordered eating.

  • Untreated depression can significantly increase someone's suicide risk.

  • Being diagnosed with a serious medical condition can cause someone to feel depressed.

  • The main treatment prescribed for depression is talk therapy and medication.

  • Someone with depression may present as very happy or confident.

With all that in mind, here's what to say to someone who is depressed:

It Seems Like You've Been Having a Hard Time Lately

Not everyone is forward with their mental health, and it's common for people with depression to try to conceal how they feel. To the entire world, they may seem "fine." But if something feels off, trust your own feelings.

Recognizing depression- and calling it out- can make a huge difference in helping your loved one feel supported. You might also point out behavioral patterns or changes you've noticed.

Do You Want to Talk About It?

This is a simple yes or no question that prioritizes your friend's autonomy.

They may say no, and that's perfectly reasonable. It just might not be the right time. But, people tend to feel motivated to talk about their feelings when someone has granted them permission. They might be relieved you've offered that emotional space.

How Can I Best Support You Right Now?

Mental illness is complex, and when someone is in genuine mental and emotional pain, they don't always know what they need. Major depression has a way of convincing people that they are a burden on others. Likewise, someone experiencing depression often feels enormous guilt and frustration over their 'bad feelings.'

Maybe they need help grocery shopping. Maybe they value spending time hanging out and lounging around on a free Saturday morning. Or maybe they just need a person who can listen sympathetically. But you won't know unless you ask directly.

You're Not Alone, and I'm Here For You No Matter What

Depression can be incredibly isolating, and people struggling with their mental health also tend to isolate themselves from others.

Let your loved one know that you are other to support them- despite what's happening with their depression.

I Know I Can't Fix Things, But I'm Happy to Listen

If you've identified certain warning signs- or are simply concerned about your friend's overall well-being, this statement acknowledges that you don't hold yourself responsible for changing the dynamic.

However, in this, you're also acknowledging that you are there unconditionally.

You Matter So Much to Me

When someone has severe depression, they often lose sight of their relationships and may believe that nobody genuinely cares about them. This fear can lead to destructive patterns and suicidal thoughts.

Remind your loved one how much they mean to you. Highlight their strengths and let them know how they have positively impacted your life.

That Sounds Really Difficult

If a friend highlights a specific issue related to their mental health, validate their experience. Remember that compassionate support is often more impactful than well-meaning advice.

Try to put yourself in their shoes when they share their feelings. This can help ground you in sitting with their discomfort and reflecting on their experiences.

I'm Concerned About Your Depression

Maybe you've noticed your friend's declining self-care over the past few months. Maybe they have made jokes insinuating suicidal thoughts or other crisis issues.

When it comes to genuinely highlighting your friend's problems, you may need to be bolder in how you talk to them. Letting them know your direct concern shows that you take their emotional state seriously.

This Isn't Your Fault

People with depression tend to feel ashamed of their mental health. They may also feel responsible for perpetuating their distress.

Pent-up feelings of shame and embarrassment can cause them to feel disproportionally overwhelmed. Reminding them that they didn't cause this mental illness reminds them that they aren't a bad person (or flawed person) for what's happening in their brain.

I Want to See You Seek Professional Support

If you spot suicide warning signs or you know your friend experiences another medical illness in addition to their depression, you may be concerned about their imminent safety.

Suicidal thinking doesn't always coincide with depression, but many people who attempt suicide have histories of depression or other mood disorders.

Some people with depression will resist treatment. They might skip their doctor appointments or avoid taking medication. Even if they have good intentions to take care of themselves, they might struggle to implement what they know might be helpful.

Remember that your job isn't to force anyone to do anything. Your job is to highlight your concerns, share additional resources (if appropriate), and stay calm despite the situation.

I Know You Recently Started Taking Medications/Speaking to a Mental Health Professional. How Is That Going?

If you know a friend started taking medication or attending counseling, check in on them!

An open-ended question shows that you care. Just don't pressure them to respond immediately.

Many people with depression feel weak, nervous, or embarrassed about their situation. Let them come to you when they feel comfortable.

Thank You For Sharing This With Me. I Am Proud of You

Being vulnerable isn't easy, and many people feel awkward talking about their mental health. This applies even if they know the other person will be supportive.

Thanking someone shows your genuine compassion for your friend's situation. Acknowledging that you're proud of them conveys your lack of judgment.

How Have Things Been Going?

Even once your friend recovers from their darkness, they still need support. Keep in mind that depression often ebbs and flows- it's common for some people to oscilate between feeling normal' and feeling downright depressed.

Someone with depression might not talk openly about their emotional well-being on a regular basis. But you can show your support by continuing to check in and ask how you can help.

What If You're Experiencing Depression and Need Support?

Depression is among the most common mental illnesses worldwide. Your mental health isn't a character flaw, and you don't have to keep feeling trapped in your own suffering.

At Resurface Group, we help move people from feeling hopeless to feeling empowered about their mental health. We integrate professional help with social support. and we strive to keep people safe from immediate danger.

Depression isn't your fault. We recognize the toll mood disorders can have on your well-being, and we are here to help you heal.

Contact us today to learn more about our services.

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