12 Things Not to Say to a Person Struggling With Depression

Don’t downplay their condition and make them feel guilty. Here’s what you should say instead.

Updated
Fit
4 min read
(Photo: iStock)

With over 300 million people affected, depression is the leading cause of ill health globally. In India, nearly 50 million people suffer from disorders like depression and anxiety.

Depression is plaguing our country and affecting people around us more often than we realise. It is a medical condition, it can’t just go away. A person can’t just be expected to get over it, any more than they can will themselves to get over a broken arm.

It has physical manifestations in the brain along with chemical imbalances. You can’t make that go away by simply “cheering up”.

A person going through it is already having a tough time, don’t make it harder for them by saying the following things. Instead, give them the support they need.

1. Arre, just go out and enjoy, you'll forget about it.

12 Things Not to Say to a Person Struggling With Depression

Painting the town red is no cure for depression. Depression isn't just a bad day. It's a hundred bad days, all at once, with seemingly no way out.

What to say instead:

I would love to spend some time with you. Let’s go out and grab a bite.

2. Will you stop that constant whining?

They’re not throwing themselves a pity party for fun. They’re not making it about themselves.

What to say instead:

I can see that you are struggling, and I’m here to lend an ear.

3. A lot of people are worse off than you are.

12 Things Not to Say to a Person Struggling With Depression

Other people having problems doesn’t make their problems disappear. You’re only making them feel guilty about something that is not in their hands.

What to say instead:

I’m sorry that you’re hurting. What can I do for you?

4. Just deal with it and smile more.

12 Things Not to Say to a Person Struggling With Depression

They ARE dealing with it, every single day. They’re not going through depression as a choice.

What to say instead:

You don’t have to deal with this alone, I’m here.

5. You’re bringing me down.

Repeat after me, depression is NOT a choice. The last thing they need is the extra worry of burdening you.

What to say instead:

I’m not going to leave you or abandon you, let me know what I can do.

6. Believe me, I know how you feel. I was depressed once for several days.

12 Things Not to Say to a Person Struggling With Depression

By saying this you’re downplaying what they’re going through. If you haven’t been in depression, then no, you don’t know how it feels. It’s not just a bad day or a bad mood.

What to say instead:

I can’t begin to imagine how you must be feeling, but I’m here to listen.

7. What do you even have to be depressed about?

Depression isn't always caused by a traumatic or sad event. Sometimes, it just happens. That doesn't make it any less serious.

What to say instead:

I'm sorry I didn't realise you were struggling, I'm here now.

8. I thought you were stronger than that.

12 Things Not to Say to a Person Struggling With Depression

They can’t just distract themselves and pull up. They are strong for dealing with it every day.

What to say instead:

I believe in you, and I know you can get through this.

9. It’s just a phase, it’ll pass.

No, it’s not a phase. They’re dealing with an illness. You don’t say it’s just a phase to a person dealing with diabetes.

What to say instead:

I will be here every step of the way. You can bank on me.

10. But it’s all in your mind.

12 Things Not to Say to a Person Struggling With Depression

No, it’s not. I repeat for the hundrendth time, it’s a physiological illness, they can’t will it to go away.

What to say instead:

It’s not your fault. don’t beat yourself up for it.

11. No one said life is fair.

12 Things Not to Say to a Person Struggling With Depression

And how does that solve their problem? This is the last things a person with depression needs to hear.

What to say instead:

You’re important. You matter to me.

12. You need to go for a run, exercise more.

They need more than just getting out of the house and going for a run. In depression, sometimes it’s difficult to even get out of the bed.

What to say:
I need a walking buddy! Will you come with me?

Our ignorance, bias and stigma prevent timely help and cause suffering. Let’s change that.

(This article was first published on 7 April 2017 as part of a series of articles for World Health Day. The Quint is focusing on raising awareness and mobilising support for mental health issues.)

Liked this story? We'll send you more. Subscribe to The Quint's newsletter and get selected stories delivered to your inbox every day. Click to get started.

The Quint is available on Telegram & WhatsApp too, click to join.

Published: 
Stay Updated

Subscribe To Our Daily Newsletter And Get News Delivered Straight To Your Inbox.

Join over 120,000 subscribers!