what not to say to someone with depression

Mariah Brown

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Mariah Brown

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Greetings and welcome! Are you searching for information on what not to say to someone with depression? You’ve come to the right place. As someone with personal experience around this topic, I understand the importance of effective communication and the impact our words can have on individuals battling depression. In this article, we will explore phrases and actions to avoid and provide suggestions for supporting and communicating with someone living with depression.

what not to say to someone with depression

Phrases to Avoid

‘Everyone is going through something’

While it may be true that everyone faces challenges, saying this to someone with depression can minimize their struggles and make them feel unheard. Depression is a clinical condition that requires empathy and understanding.

‘You just need a drink’

Offering alcohol as a solution to depression is not only unhelpful but can also be harmful. Substance abuse can exacerbate symptoms and lead to a vicious cycle of dependency.

‘Cheer up!’

Telling someone with depression to “cheer up” oversimplifies their condition and disregards the complexity of their emotions. It’s essential to acknowledge their feelings and provide support rather than expecting an instant change in mood.

‘Many people go through worse’

Comparing someone’s pain to others’ experiences invalidates their struggles and dismisses the severity of their depression. Each person’s journey is unique, and it’s crucial to offer support without diminishing their feelings.

‘You’re being selfish’

Labeling someone as selfish for experiencing depression is not only insensitive but also misguided. Depression is an illness, not a choice. It requires compassion and understanding, not judgment.

Actions to Avoid

Don’t take it personally

When someone is struggling with depression, it’s important not to take their actions or behaviors personally. Depression can impact one’s ability to engage socially or show enthusiasm, but it doesn’t mean they don’t care about your relationship.

Don’t think you know better

Avoid assuming you know what’s best for someone with depression. Each person’s experience is unique, and they are the best judge of what helps them. Offer support and guidance, but also respect their autonomy.

Don’t avoid them

One of the worst things you can do is to avoid someone with depression. Isolation worsens the condition and deepens feelings of loneliness. Stay connected, check in on them, and let them know you’re there whenever they’re ready to talk.

Avoid taking charge

While it’s important to offer assistance, avoid taking control of their journey. Instead of assuming you know what’s best for them, ask how you can help and support their decisions. Empower them to take charge of their own healing process.

Don’t compare

Comparing their situation to others can undermine their struggles and invalidate their feelings. Instead, offer empathy and understanding without drawing comparisons. Listen attentively and provide a safe space for them to express their emotions.

Suggestions for Support

Show empathy

Empathy is crucial when supporting someone with depression. Acknowledge their pain, validate their feelings, and let them know you’re there for them. Simply saying, “I can’t fully understand what you’re going through, but I’m here to listen” can make a significant difference.

Offer to help them find help

Depression often requires professional help, such as therapy or medication. Offer to assist them in finding suitable resources, such as therapists or support groups. Be proactive in helping them access the care they need.

Ask them

Instead of assuming what might help, ask them directly. They know themselves best. Pose open-ended questions such as, “What can I do to support you?” or “Is there anything specific you find helpful during difficult times?” Tailor your support based on their responses.

A Detailed Breakdown

Phrases to Avoid Actions to Avoid
‘Everyone is going through something’ Don’t take it personally
‘You just need a drink’ Don’t think you know better
‘Cheer up!’ Don’t avoid them
‘Many people go through worse’ Avoid taking charge
‘You’re being selfish’ Don’t compare

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How can I support someone with depression?

A: Show empathy, offer to help them find professional help, and ask them directly what they need.

Q: Is it okay to tell someone to “snap out of it”?

A: No, it’s not recommended. Phrases like these can be dismissive and invalidate their struggles.

Q: Can I share my personal experiences with depression to relate to them?

A: Sharing your experiences can be helpful, but be mindful not to overshadow or invalidate their unique journey. Focus on active listening and supporting them.

Q: Should I force them to socialize when they don’t feel like it?

A: Respect their boundaries and allow them to take the lead. Instead of forcing them, offer gentle encouragement and let them know you’re there if they ever want to spend time together.

Q: Can a simple phrase make a significant impact?

A: Yes! Simple, empathetic phrases like “I’m here for you” or “You’re not alone” can provide immense comfort and support.

Q: Is depression a sign of weakness?

A: No, depression is not a sign of weakness. It is a medical condition that can affect anyone, regardless of their strength or character.

Q: How can I educate myself about depression?

A: Seek reliable sources such as reputable websites, books, or attend mental health workshops to gain a deeper understanding of depression.

Q: Can I make them feel better by suggesting they engage in positive activities?

A: While positive activities can be helpful, it’s essential to acknowledge that depression is a complex condition that can’t be cured by simply engaging in positive actions. Encourage them, but don’t oversimplify their struggles.

Q: Can my supportive actions replace professional help?

A: While your support is valuable, professional help is often necessary for long-term treatment. Encourage them to seek therapy or consult a healthcare professional.

Q: What should I do if someone with depression expresses thoughts of suicide?

A: Take it seriously. Encourage them to seek immediate help from a mental health professional or contact a helpline. Stay with them and ensure their safety.


Communicating effectively with someone who has depression is essential for their well-being. By avoiding harmful phrases, respecting boundaries, and offering support, we can create a safe space for open dialogue. Remember that each person’s journey is unique, and it’s crucial to provide empathy and understanding without judgment. If you found this article helpful, be sure to explore other related resources for further support.

– National Institute of Mental Health: www.nimh.nih.gov
– Mayo Clinic: www.mayoclinic.org
– HelpGuide: www.helpguide.org

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