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What Not to Say to Someone Who Is Depressed - 11 Things Not to Say to a Depressed Person

WhatToGetMy Instructional Article

The things we say to others will more often than not, have an impact on them. In the case of depression, it is absolutely important that we know what not to say to someone who is depressed because they are in a fragile emotional state and could misread what you say such that very negative consequences occur.

The World Health Organization estimates that around 280 million adults around the world are suffering from depression and with this graph from Statista showing that all adult age groups suffer at similar rates, there is a good chance that a lot of people know someone who is suffering from this mental condition.

Percentage of U.S. Adults with Depression, 2013 to 2016, by age

If you are one of those people, you might be experiencing the urge to help the depressed person. This is a good thing because the last thing that depressed people need is to be alone. They need to know that people care about them, that they matter, and that there are people who support them.

Talking to them is one way of being supportive because it ensures that they are engaging socially which can significantly help their recovery. A problem arises, however, with what exactly one can talk to a depressed person about that won’t negatively affect their recovery.

a depressed person about that won’t negatively affect their recovery

In that regard, we shall try to help out by discussing some things to never say to a depressed person as well as other horrible things to say to someone with depression. Of course, there is no one size fits all when it comes to what not to tell a depressed person because human beings are different however, these have been recommended by experts to be avoided when talking with a depressed person.

1. Telling them to get over it

Arguably the most important thing not to say to someone with depression is that they should simply get over it or move past it by saying things like, “Don’t be depressed.” First off, if they could, they would, no one wants to feel depressed because it is a horrible state to be in.

Secondly and most importantly, this is plain insensitive. In telling someone with depression to get over it, you are making it sound like depression is such a minor thing that can be moved past so easily. In other words, you would be invalidating the feelings and condition of the depressed person thereby making this one of the worst things to say to a depressed person.

Related article: What to do when your spouse is depressed.

2. Telling them that they don’t seem depressed

Sometimes we say this out of a good place to encourage the person but it’s simply one of those things that might be good for the person saying it, but quite negative for the recipient as it leaves room to be misconstrued.

You see this falls under what not to say to someone with depression because it can make the person feel unsure of themselves and their depression such that they might fail to deal with it adequately. For instance, maybe they are an artist and made a piece of beautiful artwork such that you are tempted to say, “Would a depressed person make this?” Don’t say it. A depressed person could in fact make it but that does not make them any less depressed.

There is also the fact that some depressed people deliberately go out of their way to take care of themselves so that other people don’t notice their depression. If they come out to you, that means they trust you to look past their disguise and you not doing so might be hurtful.

Related article – How to know if your teenager is depressed.

3. Comparing and belittling their pain

Another huge thing not to say to a depressed person is anything that might compare their pain with someone else’s. Depression is not a pissing contest and the depression of one person is different from that of another because humans are different.

Saying things like, “That person was depressed too and they didn’t act like this,” and anything along those lines is a definite no-no. You should also avoid telling them that it could be worse or that you have dealt with worse because you would not only be comparing their depression to some unseen standard but it might put it in their mind that they could, in fact, get worse.

4. Making them doubt themselves

What not to say to someone with a mental illness like depression? Anything that makes them doubt their condition. There are certain things you might say that could cause such a thing to happen such as telling them that it is all in their head or that they are looking for an excuse to be lazy.

Apart from the hostile nature of these statements, these are shitty sayings because they could lead a person to not only doubt their status but to withdraw more from others because they would feel as though people don’t believe them concerning the depression they feel. These two things can be quite dangerous because they need to acknowledge their depression to move on from it and loneliness is one thing a depressed person shouldn’t feel.

5. Making them feel ashamed of their depression

Another top entry on the list of worst things to say to someone with depression is anything that shames them for their depression.

Too many times, people react to depression in their loved ones by telling them that they are selfish for acting the way they do. Some go as far as telling the person that other people have problems too and that they are simply spoiled and weak for letting their condition get the better of them while others can live with their problems.

6. Blaming them for their depression

Something else that you absolutely should not do is blame the person for their depression, especially if you are the type to say, “ I told you so” whenever you are proven right. Resist the urge to say anything along the lines of them only being depressed because they engage in a certain action that was not sanctioned by you or others.

This enters the list of what not to tell someone with depression because they would already be having problems with their self-worth and this can only make things worse because they will feel even less of themselves for being in such a situation.

7. Mocking their depression

We might also unwittingly be mocking the depression of a person by certain things we say and we need to be careful about those things. It is not right to ask a depressed person why they are depressed when they have many good things going on for them such as a family and a well-paying job.

Older guardians also fall under this category when they question depression in their dependents by asking them why they would be depressed when they(the guardian) work hard to provide them with everything. They may even make snide remarks such as, “depressed people are annoying.”

The truth is, depression can affect anyone regardless of how well they have it in life so one must not mock the depression of another but instead focus on getting them the help they need.

8. Telling them to drink their depression away

This should be a no-brainer when it comes to what not to say to people with depression but because some people don’t understand the depth of the depression, they might suggest that a person go drinking in order to feel better.

There are two many reasons (amongst many others) why this is a bad idea. Firstly, alcohol is a depressant which means that a depressed person drinking alcohol is like pouring gasoline on a naked flame. Secondly, alcohol can be very addictive especially when a person is using it as a means of escape. For these two main reasons, alcohol should never be advised to a person who is suffering from depression.

9. Telling them that you understand how they feel when you don’t

You should also avoid telling a depressed person that you understand how they feel because you most likely don’t. Depression is not some sad feeling that most people understand but rather a deeper result of chemical imbalance in the brain that can be really traumatic. In fact, you saying that you understand a depressed person is a depressing thing to say about yourself.

It is also worthy of note that the depression one person feels can be different from that felt by another. This means that even if you have had depression before, there is still a good chance that you don’t know how the person feels. Essentially it is best to avoid saying you understand to a depressed person by keeping it in your mind that this is part of what not to say to someone who is depressed.

10. Telling them they need to deal with depression better

Can you imagine a person having flu and you telling them that they need to cough or sneeze better? It might be a bit of an oversimplification but it is analogous to telling a person to deal with their depression better.

When you tell a person that they need to deal with depression better, it has the effect of trivializing the depression as well as making the person feel worse about themselves and their ability to handle things. It might also make a depressed person feel as though they will be stuck being depressed for a while as this is the only reason why a person ought to get used to something.

11. Suggesting that they go out and do something

More often than not, depression makes people feel like staying at home and avoiding human contact even though this can make them worse. You, therefore, suggest to them that they should go out and do something with people to feel better. This is a tad insensitive because you would not be taking into account the tendency of depression to be a soul-sucking condition that robs one of the willingness to be social.

You can get around this being part of what not to say to someone who is depressed by offering to go out with the person instead. You can go on a simple walk, or to a restaurant to eat, or maybe even a little hike. The support you give by doing this will be of immense help to the person.

Related article: How to get motivated to exercise when depressed.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What not to say to someone who is suicidal?

  • Telling them that you know how they feel because you don’t.
  • Telling them that they are being selfish.
  • Involving religion and telling them that they might go to hell for instance.
  • Telling them that they should stop acting so victimized 
  • Telling them that there are people with worse problems than them and yet are still living.

2. What not to say to a suicidal person?

  • Anything that makes the situation about you such as you being devastated if they commit suicide.
  • Saying to them that they are selfish for wanting to commit suicide.
  • Shaming them by saying suicide is cowardly
  • Telling them that whatever they are going through could be worse
  • Saying that other people have similar problems and did not contemplate suicide

3. What should you avoid saying to a depressed person

  • Telling them to get over it
  • Telling them that they are selfish
  • Telling them that they have no reason to be depressed
  • Telling them that they brought the depression on themselves
  • Telling them that they don’t look depressed
  • Telling them that they are not handling depression very well

In conclusion

Depression is a horrible condition that no one should have to go through but people still do. It is therefore important that you do not make things worse for them with the things you say and do and we hope this article has given you some insight in that regard.

Please note that depression and suicide are highly correlated so keep observing the depressed person and if you feel at any point that they might be thinking of ending it all, please reach out to relevant suicide prevention assistance in your area.

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