Knowing what to say to a depressed person is not always easy. While you may feel uncomfortable and uncertain at first, know that everything you say doesn’t have to be deep or poetic. It should just be something that comes from a place of compassion and acceptance.
Try not to be deterred by worrying about saying the “wrong” thing. Too many people with clinical depression feel lonely – a condition that only makes them worse. If you don’t know what to say, just say it – and tell your friend you’re there for them.
Don’t accuse, threaten, blame, or despise how your friend feels. Let them know you’re there to talk about it.
Research has shown that people tend to withdraw when they are depressed, 2 so contacting a friend in need is an important first step. If your friend isn’t ready to talk, continue to offer your support by spending time with them and try to talk regularly, either in person, on the phone, or by text.
When you want to say more, but find it hard to express how you feel, try referring to the following statements that a depressed person might find helpful to hear.
Tell Them You Care
Those two simple words – “I care” – can mean so much to a person who may feel like the whole world is against them. A hug or a soft touch of the hand can even get that point across. The important thing is to reach out and let the person know they are important to you.
Remind Them You’re There for Them
Depression can make it seem like no one understands what you are feeling or cares enough about it to try to understand, which can be isolating and overwhelming.
You might not know what it will look like at first, but know that just reminding your friend that you are someone they can lean on can mean the world.
Ask How You Can Help
Depression places a tremendous burden on the person experiencing it, both physically and mentally, so there is probably a lot you can do to ease the burden while your friend recovers.
Your friend may be reluctant to accept your offer for fear of becoming a burden on you, so make it clear that you don’t mind that and that you want to help in the same way you know they would in a situation. similar.
It’s also possible that depression leaves your friend so tired and depressed that he or she doesn’t even know what kind of help to ask for. Be prepared with a few specific suggestions, which may include:
- Could you use help with housework or shopping?
- Would you like the company for a while?
- Would you like me to drive you to your doctor’s appointments?
- Being specific about both time and activity can help. For example, instead of saying “Can I do something for you?” maybe ask, “Can I come on Saturday morning and do some yard work for you?”
Also, keep in mind that the help you think your friend might need may not be what they think would actually benefit them. Suggest – and listen.
Urge Them to Talk With a Doctor
Treatments for depression play a very important role in curing depression, but people are often ashamed of their condition or are pessimistic about whether treatment will really help.
If your friend is already seeing a doctor, offer to help them take their medication and be on time for appointments.
Ask Them If They Want to Talk
Sometimes the most important thing you can do for a depressed friend is to just listen sympathetically as they talk about what is bothering them, which allows them to relieve the pressure of repressed feelings.
Make sure you listen without interrupting. We all want to make things right for those we care about and often come up with quick fixes to deal with our own feelings of helplessness. Sometimes depressed people just need to talk without the conversation being taken over by well-meaning advice.
Remind Them That They Matter
A common feeling among those who are depressed is that their life doesn’t matter and no one would care even if they were gone. If you can sincerely talk to your friend about all the ways that matter to you and to others, it can help them see that they are valuable and valuable.
Tell Them You Understand
Before you say “I get” to someone, you need to be sure you are actually doing it. Have you ever suffered from clinically significant depression? If so, it may be helpful for your friend to learn that you have been through what they are feeling and that it can get better.
If what you went through was just a case of the blues, on the other hand, your friend may feel like you are trivializing their experience by comparing it to yours.
In that case, it would be better to just admit that you don’t understand exactly what they are going through, but care about them and want to give it a try. Often the best words to say are, “I don’t understand, but I really want to.”
Remind Them It’s OK to Feel This Way
Even though your friend’s problems may seem minor, resist the urge to judge or find simple solutions. The biochemical imbalances associated with depression are what explains how badly your friend feels about certain situations – not the situations themselves.
Instead, let them know that you regret that they feel so bad, and adopt an attitude of acceptance that this is how their depression affects them. If your friend has only recently started taking medication or counseling, it may take a while before they start to feel better.
Just as an antibiotic for strep throat takes a long time to work, antidepressants can take a long time to change chemicals in the brain (sometimes more than eight weeks or more).