All about the mind

7 things to say to someone with depression


Last week, I spoke about what not to say to someone who is depressed. This week, as promised, we need to talk about things we can say or do to someone with depression. Like I said, depression is hard. For the person suffering and also for their loved ones who may feel helpless and not know what to do. You are not meant to be a substitute therapist for someone with depression.

7 things to say or do to someone with depression

1. I’m here if you need me

When someone is depressed, they may not always want to talk. But they still need to know there is someone who cares about them and who is there if they do feel the need to talk about things.

2. Is there anything I can do

Remember the helplessness I talked about? Well, you could always ask the person who is depressed if there is something you could do. Sometimes they might say nothing because they don’t know what themselves. But you could still help out by maybe cleaning up a bit, fixing them a cup of tea, getting them a treat from the shops. Anything.

3. Validate their feelings

When we try and listen to someone, more often than not, we are thinking about what to say or in the case of someone who is depressed or anxious, about how to fix it. The fact is, you do not need to fix the problem. Rather, you are being more helpful if you listen and validate their feelings. What does that mean? It means you listen to what they are saying and reflect their feelings. It doesn’t mean you have to agree with everything they are saying or that you have to lie. It just means you are trying to understand what they are saying. Here’s some more details about how to validate someone’s feelings.

4. Show empathy, not sympathy

While you don’t have to know exactly what someone is going through, you need to be able to put yourself in their shoes. Imagine what it feels like to feel empty, unhappy, and hopeless. And then, connect. The following video by Brené Brown clearly explains the difference between empathy and sympathy. Try it with someone you know who is depressed and you’ll be amazed at how much it can mean to the other person.

 5. Check in on them

Someone with depression is going to withdraw from others. They either don’t have the energy or just prefer being on their own due to their low mood. It is important to check-in on them. You could call them and have a chat, send them a message to know you are thinking of them, or even drop in on them.

6. Include them 

Just like checking in on someone with depression, try and include them in things. Whether it’s dinner at your place or a night out with a small group or even just window shopping at the mall, invite them over. It makes them feel worthwhile and helps them realise they do have connections. If possible, ask them if they want to organise things and try and give them some responsibilities. It gives them a sense of purpose and once again, makes them feel worthwhile.

7. Ask if they are suicidal or hurting themselves

If someone you love has been depressed for a long time, it doesn’t hurt to ask them if they have had thoughts of ending their life. There is no basis to claims that this will ‘put ideas into their head’. Rather, if they have been thinking about it, it helps them talk to someone. While you are not their therapist, you can empathise and validate their feelings and then, encourage them to seek help. Of course, if they do have a plan and outline it to you, take them to the emergency department for a risk assessment.

The bottomline is to remember you do not have to fix their depression. You just have to be there, care, listen and empathise. You do not have to be a trained health professional to do any of that. You just have to be human.

***Linking with Alicia for Open Slather, Kirsty for I must confess and Mackenzie for MG***

Until next time,



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  • Obsessivemom
    25 July 2016 at 10:22 am

    Thank you for this one Sanch. Makes a lot of sense specially that point no 3. Rather than saying that their worries are unfound it makes more sense to say you understand why they’re that way. That last point is hard though because most often they do not want to be included in anything. They don’t want to go anywhere or do anything. And it’s difficult to fugue out how far to push them.
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    • Sanch @ Living my Imperfect Life
      25 July 2016 at 6:52 pm

      You’re welcome Tulika. I guess with the final point, it’s more about the invite than anything else. I’ve had people not allow me to make a decision whether I can do something or not by just assuming I won’t be up for it. And that hurts. Because in the end, part of what helps depression is doing things and trying to engage with society.

  • Michelle V
    25 July 2016 at 6:47 pm

    I have an anxiety disorder so I can relate to a lot of the points you’ve made. Great blog post!

  • Shailaja
    25 July 2016 at 6:52 pm

    Excellent points all of them and I especially agree with Brene Brown and the idea that you are not a substitute for a therapist. They need to know that someone is available. That’s it and that’s doable. Well said.

  • Vishal Bheeroo
    25 July 2016 at 9:47 pm

    It gets very awkward when someone goes through depression for you don’t know what one goes through it. It’s important to express empathy and makes them know there is someone for them. Excellently put.
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  • Paula, The Geeky Shopaholic
    25 July 2016 at 10:22 pm

    These posts are so helpful to me Sanch! I always want to fix things for people, but now I have a better way. 🙂 And that clip from Brene Brown was great. I really do need to read her books!
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  • Suzi T
    25 July 2016 at 11:14 pm

    From someone who has suffered from depression her whole life, thank you for what you have written. #mg

  • Ashleigh My Meow
    26 July 2016 at 8:04 am

    Great post you have nailed it. I think people think they need a degree or something to help someone. But really just be human. My mum was struggling a year or so ago and a lady she hardly knew from her exercise class came and picked her up and took her for coffee one day when Dad was working. Simple acts of kindness and just being there can help so much.
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  • Corinne Rodrigues
    26 July 2016 at 12:42 pm

    Oh yes, we either end up saying the wrong things or have nothing to say. Thank you for sharing this, Sanch.
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  • Parul Thakur
    26 July 2016 at 2:27 pm

    It’s hard to bring up the subject with the person you care for. You have shared some really valid points. Empathy can go a long way.
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  • Aditi
    27 July 2016 at 2:27 am

    Listening, being there for them and empathising and making them feel inclusive are all key points. Thank you for sharing this, Sanch!
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  • Pen
    27 July 2016 at 6:33 am

    Loved this post and I really really loved the video. thanks for sharing. Pen x #mg
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  • Kirsty @ My Home Truths
    27 July 2016 at 9:29 pm

    These are great tips. I know I tend to sympathise rather than empathise so this was another good reminder for me. Great post Sanch x
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  • Janet aka Middle Aged Mama
    27 July 2016 at 10:30 pm

    Having suffered with depression myself, I think you’re absolutely spot on here. Although I might add, they are likely to say “no it’s fine” if you ask “is there anything I can do” … but don’t listen to them, there’s sure to be something you can do, so do it! x
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  • alicia - One Mother Hen
    27 July 2016 at 10:43 pm

    I now when I feel depressed i lock myself away, and don’t feel like talking to anyone. A text message is probably the best thing, because I tend to ignore my phone like the plague! Offering to take them for a quiet drive is good too. This is an awesome post Sanch x
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  • The Ultimate Rabbit Hole #78 - The Geeky Shopaholic
    30 July 2016 at 6:00 am

    […] Sanch shares seven things to say to someone with depression. […]

  • Rajlakshmi
    30 July 2016 at 10:19 pm

    The video on empathy and sympathy is absolutely brilliant. This is a great post. I am usually tongue tied and don’t know what to say in these situations… mostly because I fear I might sound rude or say something off. I usually listen and give a hug but hardly say anything. Thank you for writing this.
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  • Mackenzie Glanville
    31 July 2016 at 12:53 pm

    So important that posts like this are written and shared. Thank you! I remember having to ask my dad if he was suicidal and it was tough to ask but so important. After loosing my best friend to suicide and depression I refused to loose my dad. We got him the help he needed and thank God now he is doing so well and is laughing and embracing life again. It was a long battle but it is great to see him so healthy now, I will always be grateful that i had the strength to fight for him at a time where he was so lost to us. Sending love your way xoxo #mg
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