10 things NOT to say to someone who is depressed

  1. How are you? if you don’t have time to listen to their answer. How often have you had someone ask that same question as they rush on by, not waiting for an answer? If you must say something or if you want to acknowledge that person as you walk away, say something like ‘Good morning, nice to see you.” or “I like your hair/dress/your outfit etc.
  2. You look well or you look alright to me. Perhaps they do on the outside but on the inside, they might be feeling suicidal. And your comment just might come across as insincere. When I was depressed and anxious, every time someone told me I look well, I just felt like punching them.
  3. What have you got to be depressed about? You’ve got a good job, husband, a lovely home etc. A person can have all these things but still be depressed. Depression can occur for a variety of reasons and it has many different triggers.
  4. If someone is suicidal don’t say What about your children/husband etc? Unfortunately, this doesn’t work either. If a person is feeling suicidal you might want to ask if they have a plan, how will they kill themselves, do they have the means i.e. gun, knife, tablets, when will they do it i.e. is there an anniversary/birthday coming up? Asking these questions does not make a person feel suicidal but by asking them, it shows you care and that you are taking their concerns seriously.
  5. There are people way worse off than you. Do you really think they care? I know I didn’t! I was in such a deep and dark place, I couldn’t think about anyone else.
  6. Just think happy thoughts or you need to snap out of this. While practising positive thinking is known to be beneficial, it’s not enough to cure someone of depression. If this was so easy, we’d have nobody with mental health problems. You might want to say something like “I’m here if you want to talk.” or “Is there something I can do to help?” It could be something simple like doing the dishes, making them a cup of tea or a light lunch if they’re not eating.
  7. It can’t be that bad. It obviously is for that person. Minimizing the pain of another person is not helpful and, for people who are dealing with depression, can be very hurtful and harmful. However much you think think you are empathising, you can never know for sure how it feels to be them. You might choose to say “Do you want to tell me about it?” or you might just stay silent, just being with the person often helps.
  8. It’s all in your head. This sounds dismissive at best and at worst it could sound like the person is making it all up or that they’re ‘mad’. My ex loved this one! “It’s all in your head, you nutter.” How I could have swung for him, if I had the energy.
  9. Cheer up! Your well-meaning “cheer up” might sound cheerful and supportive to you, but this oversimplifies the feelings of sadness that go with depression. People living with depression cannot just decide to feel happier. If I had a £ for every time someone said it to me…………
  10. It’s always about you. A person who is depressed can appear preoccupied with their own life and problems, which is normal under the circumstances and it doesn’t mean they are being selfish. The pressure to explain or justify why they feel this way can make depression worse and stop them asking for help.

However well-meaning, do not give unsolicited advice, give information such as where to get professional help.

Author: mentalhealth360.uk

Mum to two amazing sons. Following recovery from a lengthy psychotic episode, depression, anxiety and anorexia, I decided to train as a Mental Health Nurse and worked successfully in various settings before becoming a Ward Manager. I am a Mental Health First Aid Instructor and a Mental Health Awareness Trainer, Mental Health First Aid Youth and Mental Health Armed Forces Instructor. Just started my mental health from the other side blog.

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