All about the mind

5 things not to say to someone with depression

On average, 1 in 6 people will experience depression in their lifetime. 1 in 5 women and 1 in 8 men will suffer from this debilitating mental health disorder. Worldwide, depression is the leading cause of disability. In Australia alone, during one year, it is estimated that about 1 million Australian adults will suffer from depression and about 2 million from anxiety. Yet, in spite of these statistics, there continues to be a stigma around it.

What is depression

Remember, depression is not just feeling sad for a short period of time. It’s when you feel really down for a prolonged period. It’s when you feel hopeless and worthless and useless. You start to think that nothing is going to change and nothing good can ever happen. You feel tired easily and lack the motivation to do anything. You might still be able to drag yourself to work and daily activities but it is hard work and takes a lot of effort. You might still smile and carry on but inside, you feel empty, numb and sad. Your sleep is affected {either too much or too little} as is your appetite {too much or too little}. You might gain a significant amount of weight or lose a lot of weight. Your thinking is constantly dark and negative — about yourself, the world around you, the future. You may have thoughts of death and dying because sometimes, that feels like the only way to cease the suffering.

So when someone is feeling like that, there are many things they do not want to hear from others.

Here are 5 things not to say to someone with depression:

 1. Just Think Positive

Ok, if they could do that, they probably would have already done it! It’s not like they enjoy torturing themselves with thoughts about how worthless they are or how no one will ever love them or how their future is never going to work out. They have tried and are still trying but there will be days when the negativity has complete control. Telling someone who is depressed to think positively will ensure you get a punch in the face. If they have the energy for it. What it will do though, is it will be yet another reason for them to think negatively because you know what? No one understands!

2. But you’ve got [insert good things in life] to be happy about

Ah yes, let’s try to guilt them out of their depression. Because that will work. It doesn’t matter if they have a job, ten cars, five houses and bazillion friends. Depression doesn’t choose who to target. The fact is, they already probably feel guilty because they know they have all of this and are still feeling sad and empty. It only compounds their feeling of worthlessness because they think they shouldn’t feel this way and by saying this to them, you’ve just confirmed their worthlessness.

3. I didn’t think you could handle [insert responsibility here] because you’ve got too much on your plate

A comment like this goes back to stigmatising depression. Just because someone is depressed, there is the automatic assumption that they may not be able to handle some responsibilities in life. Once again, by doing this, you’ve just confirmed their beliefs of being worthless and useless.

4. But you were fine yesterday

Yesterday was a different day. Not everyone with depression stays in bed for the entire period of their illness. They have okay days, not-so-okay days and completely shit days. They can’t predict these and not all of it is within their control. Some days, they may set small goals and achieve them all. On other days, getting out of bed is an achievement itself.

5. I know exactly how you feel. When I was depressed…

You never know ‘exactly’ how someone feels even if you have had similar experiences. The minute you say that, you’ve lost the person. When you then add your past experiences, you automatically make it about you and not about them.

So next time someone you know or love tells you they are depressed, kindly refrain from saying any of the above. In fact, also try initially to not give advice. Because all they want is someone to try to understand them. They don’t want advice. They don’t want you to necessarily do anything to fix it. But they want you to listen, validate, and empathise.

But more on that in another post.

***Linking with Alicia for Open Slather, Mackenzie for MG and Corinne for Monday Musings***

Until next time,


You Might Also Like

  • Lydia C. Lee
    18 July 2016 at 7:31 am

    Good post. I would say tho, sometimes they don’t even want you to listen – they just shut up in their own little world and it’s very hard to provide support at all…(yet you must continue to try)

  • Obsessivemom
    18 July 2016 at 3:51 pm

    I have more than one person in the family dealing with depression and I honestly do not know what to say to them. I have been guilty of No 2, trying to tell they have lots of things to be happy about. Sometimes I talk about me or the weird things the kids have been up to, to take their minds off their troubles but then I wonder if that would make them feel their unhappiness even more. It’s confusing because I have no idea what’ll make them feel better. Of course they are on medication but what DO I talk to them about? I have often wondered how I could make them feel better.
    I’d love it if you did a post on what one should say to people with depression.
    Obsessivemom recently posted…Have you played Uno cards?My Profile

  • Ashleigh My Meow
    18 July 2016 at 5:54 pm

    Great post and description of how depression affect people in different ways. Statements like that I have heard when I talk about my anxiety. Friends have seen that I have a happy relationship or things they don’t have and don’t understand why. It has left me feeling guilty and that I don’t deserve to be anxious…so weird. I think just being a friend to someone, listening, being empathetic and encouraging them to do normal things with you, coffee a walk or a run is the best thing to do. Looking forward to the next post.
    Ashleigh My Meow recently posted…Why I do things that are hard and sometimes suckMy Profile

  • My Era
    18 July 2016 at 6:11 pm

    I have suffered from depression (and perhaps am right there even now, check my latest post) and I couldn’t agree more on all the points you’ve made. Time and again I have had people telling me I need to be more grateful in life to be able to conquer depression for good. Unfortunately, that never helps.
    Sharing this wonderful post.
    My Era recently posted…In a negative head spaceMy Profile

  • Mackenzie Glanville
    18 July 2016 at 6:50 pm

    I find it so frustrating that people believe that you can just ‘snap out’ of depression, there is still such a lack of understanding and articles like this go along way to helping people begin to understand. I am so pleased you wrote this and shared it xx #mg
    Mackenzie Glanville recently posted…When kids would rather clean up poop than build a fort!My Profile

  • alicia - One Mother Hen
    18 July 2016 at 8:23 pm

    Hearing these things from someone you need to understand you and be supportive of you, is not helpful. It made me more upset and withdraw more from that person, draw myself further into the feeling I had to do it all on my own. It makes the depression harder to cope with. I huge hug and being patient goes a long way.
    alicia – One Mother Hen recently posted…Done and dusted – school holidays week 1My Profile

  • Alison (MadHouseMum)
    18 July 2016 at 9:20 pm

    All such good advice to read. As humans our immediate response to hearing someone is hurt, down, upset, is to try to offer a solution, or even just words of support, but these so often come out wrong. It’s good to have guidance on this, especially for those who haven’t experienced depression themselves. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Alison x #mg

  • Anamika Agnihotri
    19 July 2016 at 12:48 am

    I have been through post partum depression and the only thing I wanted during that time was someone who could hear me out and hug me without telling me I had become become a jerk. The very people who were not very keen to listen to me and were responsible for pushing me into that state to certain extent constantly judged me telling me “Khush raha karo” as if this statement was like a instant pain killer but it only worsened the depression. This post deserves to be shared. I will be waiting for your next post on this.
    Anamika Agnihotri recently posted…My ‘Reading Day’ companion #MondaymusingsMy Profile

  • Vidya Sury
    19 July 2016 at 3:16 am

    Spot on about what to avoid saying, Sanch. The problem is most people assume they know everything about a condition and are too free with their unsolicited advice and “good” intentions. Depression is never easy and very personal and unique to each individual. Hugs!
    Vidya Sury recently posted…An Impromptu Date With NatureMy Profile

  • sue
    19 July 2016 at 6:58 am

    I’m sure I’m guilty of saying those things so thank you for the reminder. I’ve been depressed and it really is difficult sometimes to pull yourself up. People don’t quite understand sometimes. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this very important subject. #mg Sue from Sizzling Towards Sixty.

  • texerinsydney
    19 July 2016 at 11:11 am

    This was good for me to read. I am guilty of number 5. My intentions are good. I want someone to think that they aren’t alone, that others are battling the disease, that someone else empathizes with the plight. But, you are correct. Saying “I know exactly how you feel” isn’t the answer. Thanks for the reminder.
    texerinsydney recently posted…Sunday’s Seven Snapshots vol.82My Profile

  • five little doves
    19 July 2016 at 6:23 pm

    So true. I have had depression for 18 years and have heard all of these things and more. “Cheer up” is the worst one for me, I’ve heard it repeatedly and it never fails to rile me!! #mg
    five little doves recently posted…For Joseph, on your 10th birthday.My Profile

  • Paula, The Geeky Shopaholic
    19 July 2016 at 8:54 pm

    This is a helpful post Sanch. I never know what to say when people are suffering like this. Especially when I’m one of those people who wants to fix things.
    Paula, The Geeky Shopaholic recently posted…A Positive Attitude Can Change Your LifeMy Profile

  • Denyse
    20 July 2016 at 9:48 am

    Very sensitive to this post and know I have made errors of judgement in trying to help. I am an automatic ‘fixer upper’ and ‘people pleaser’ and when someone you know and love has depression it is beyond me. I have had a mild bout of reactive depression and I know the sads but I never will fully understand what it is to be depressed. Thank you for this post.
    Denyse recently posted…What’s Your Name? 366/202.My Profile

  • Roshan
    22 July 2016 at 3:35 am

    Thanks for this. It is something we all need to discuss and discuss openly.
    Roshan recently posted…Ten to One : Get to Know Me BetterMy Profile

  • Scott
    24 July 2016 at 9:23 am

    I have suffered from depression for many years and even the people who know me well still do not understand and tell me too just cheer up.
    More awareness of depression is still needed.
    Scott recently posted…When Life Throws You A Curve BallMy Profile

  • The Ultimate Rabbit Hole #77 - The Geeky Shopaholic
    29 April 2017 at 12:58 am

    […] Sanch shares five things not to say to someone with depression. […]