An estimated 1 in 10 US adults report feeling depressed. Untreated Depression can lead to a variety of problems including relationship problems, workplace problems, and an increased likelihood of the depressed person engaging in risky behaviors such as drug and alcohol abuse. As a depression therapist, I can understand why you may be concerned for your loved one.
If you have a loved one suffering from depression, it’s hard to know what to say. I’m sure there have been plenty of times when you said the wrong thing. And with the severity of depression, saying the wrong thing at the wrong time could have a devastating impact on the one you love.
Below are some guidelines for knowing what to say (and what not to say) to a loved one with depression.
Remember for all of these guidelines, the simple rule in talking to someone with depression is to keep the focus on them and not you. While their depression certainly does impact you, their depression is not about you. Talking about how you are impacted by your loved one’s depression will not help alleviate the depression.
Tips From a Depression Therapist
1. You want your loved one to know that you are there for them and while you may not understand what they are going through, you will try to understand.
Try saying: “You’re not alone” or “I can’t really understand what you are going through, but I’m here to listen if you need to talk.”
Avoid saying: “There’s always someone worse off than you are.” or “Believe me, I know how you feel. I was depressed once for several days.”
2. You want your loved one to know that they matter to you and that you’re not going to leave their life because they are depressed.
Try saying: “You are important to me. I’m not going to leave you or abandon you.”
Avoid saying: “No one ever said that life is fair.” or “I think your depression is a way of punishing me.”
3. You want your loved one to know that you’re here to help them and will be there to support them.
At the same time you don’t want to push your loved one too hard into seeking help. You’re more likely going to drive a wedge between you and your loved one if they are not ready to seek help yet on their own.
Try saying: “Do you want a hug?” or “I’m sorry that you’re in so much pain. I’m here for you.”
Avoid saying: “Stop feeling sorry for yourself” or “Have you tried taking a relaxing bath?”
4. Depression is real.
While it may not be something you can physically touch or directly observe people who are depressed are genuinely not feeling well. Depression can have physical symptoms that are observable, but not all people who are depressed experience physical symptoms. You want your loved one to know that you believe that they are depressed.
Try saying: “You’re not going crazy.”
Avoid saying: “Aren’t you always depressed?”
5. You want to express to your loved one that there is hope.
Depression doesn’t have to be forever. A depressed person can get help and start feeling better. Depression is something that one can survive through.
Try saying: “When all this is over, I’ll still be here and so will you.”
Avoid saying: “Try not to be so depressed.” or “It’s your own fault.”
If you or a loved one are struggling with depression, give us a call. Our depression therapist can help you feel better and start enjoying life once again.