What NOT to Say to Someone Who is Depressed
Yes there are things to say and things you should absolutely avoid saying to someone who is depressed. In fact, by saying the wrong things you can potentially jeopardize their road to recovery. Mental health is still an underestimated and misunderstood aspect of being human. There are the “Let’s talk” days sponsored by Bell, and the “Mental Health Awareness Month”. But knowing that mental health exists is not the same as knowing how to help someone with a mental health illness.
Think of it this way, coping with a mental health issue is like coping with a physical issue, except that mental health is invisible to the eye. Would you tell someone with a broken leg to “stop whining and start walking”, or “tomorrow is another day” as if that leg will magically be healed in the morning? The same goes for mental health, with an added complexity that we can’t see it so it must be faked, or over-exaggerated, or simply a cry for attention.
Here are some examples of what NOT to say to someone who is depressed:
- “No one ever said life was fair”
- “Tomorrow is another day”
- “Are you still in bed? You’re so lazy!”
- “Cry baby”
- “Stop feeling sorry for yourself”
- “I was depressed once, I know how you feel”
- “It could be worse”
So what can you do when a loved one is dealing with depression?
Ask them what you can do to help.
Don’t assume you know how they feel or that you know what they need. Simply asking them what they would need you to do could open up the door to further conversations.
We live in a “fix-it” world. Don’t like your shoes, buy new ones. Don’t like the colour of your walls, repaint them. Don’t like your career, reschool yourself. Emotions are not fixable or replaceable. When someone tells you how they are feeling, don’t offer any advice, just listen.
Recommend that they speak to a therapist
Even if you have the best of intentions, chances are you know this person too well. Speaking to a complete stranger, who has no prior knowledge of who you are and who has no judgments about you, can allow you to open up about the thoughts you try to avoid the most.
Encourage exercise, fresh air and being social
Someone who has depression will not feel like engaging in activities, being social with people, or exercise. Encourage them to go out, even if their thoughts tell them to stay in bed, but don’t overdo it. Ask them to join you for a walk, or go for a coffee in town.
Eating healthy and on set times is important for anyone, especially someone dealing with depression. If they have no appetite, encourage them to at least have a smoothie, or a slice of toast, or make them a fruit salad.