It can be hard to talk with a friend or family member who is struggling with depression. It’s normal to be afraid that you’ll say the wrong thing. While every person is different, here are a couple of phrases to avoid and what you can say instead when talking to someone with depression.
Avoid phrases like: “I know exactly how you feel.”
Every person is unique, and experiences of depression vary greatly. If you compare the depression of the person you’re talking to with your own—or with something completely different, like a case of the blues or grief after the loss of a loved one—it can discourage your friend or family member from sharing their own unique feelings with you.
Instead, try something like: “I know I can’t fully understand what you’re feeling, but I want to try. Can you tell me about it?”
Let your loved one know that you are there for them and that you want to understand what they’re going through. If your friend believes that you really care about their individual experience and that you are open to listening, it can help them to feel safe opening up to you.
Avoid phrases like: “Everyone gets depressed sometimes.”
A person struggling with depression knows that this statement simply isn’t true. It’s important to distinguish between common emotions of sadness, boredom, or frustration that pass, and the chemical imbalances that create true depression.
Instead, try something like: “I’m so sorry you’re struggling with this. Have you considered talking to a therapist about how you’re feeling?”
Your loved one needs to know that you recognize their depression as legitimate. Encouraging them to seek professional help can also help them to see that it’s nothing to be ashamed of, and that seeking help for depression is as normal and advisable as going to a doctor for a physical illness.
Although talking to someone with depression can be intimidating, it’s important to let your friend or family member know that you care about them and want to help them. Use words that legitimize your loved one’s experience, express acceptance and compassion, and show them that it’s okay to ask for help. The simple act of choosing your words carefully and keeping an open mind can allow you to talk to someone with depression in a way that truly helps them.