Talking to a close friend or loved one about depression can be scary or confusing. You might be worried you’ll say the wrong thing or make them feel worse. In this blog post, we will cover a few thoughtful things you can say to those struggling with depression to let them know that you care in both a sensitive and compassionate way.
Create Opportunities For Real Conversations
First, it might be helpful to ask something like this: “Do you want to talk about how you’re doing? I’m here when you’re ready.” This lets them know that you support them, without pressing them to talk about their struggles. Ultimately, you can’t force someone to open up to you about what they’re going through, but knowing you’re available whenever they need you can help them feel supported.
This question is also more productive than simply asking “are you OK?” to which many struggling with depression may feel compelled to just reply with, “I’m fine” or, “yes, don’t worry about it”. Feelings of not wanting to be a burden are common in those who have depression, so stating as a fact that you are there for them rather than asking if they are ok, or if they want your help, might be more productive.
Offer To Help
Similarly, you might want to ask, “What can I do to help today?” Depression can make everyday tasks, like getting out of bed or preparing food, difficult. So, letting someone struggling know that you are genuinely there to help them in any way you can, is a good way of showing your support.
Maybe this means picking them up some dinner, or maybe it means driving them to work. Whatever it may be, helping them in a tangible way will show your support.
Let Them Know They’re Not Alone
Another helpful thing to say: “You’re not alone. I may not understand exactly how you feel, but know others are feeling the exact same way.” Depression is incredibly common. An estimated 1 in 5 Americans will experience depression at some point in their lives. Even still, depression can make many people feel alone and like they should isolate. Tell them they’re not alone. Be there for them, even if you don’t have a similar personal experience. Try not to say things that can undermine how they’re feeling, like “we all have bad days” or, “just try to think happy thoughts. This is just a phase”. Comments like these can come across as reductionist and offensive, even with the best of intentions. Remember, if you don’t have depression, you can’t fully know what someone with depression might be struggling with. What you can do for them is to lend your support
Share How Important They Are
One other way to lend support is by saying “You’re important to me because…” Depression can cause an onslaught of self-loathing, so when you let your friend or family member know that you value them, you might help restore some of that self-love. One tip: don’t just let them know that they are important to you; instead specify why they are important to you. Be as concrete as possible. Maybe you are inspired by their creativity, maybe they have a beautiful singing voice. Let them know what they bring to the world to make it a better place for you or others.
At the end of the day, there is no perfect thing to say to someone dealing with clinical depression. It is a health condition like any other and requires time and treatment to heal. It’s important to remember that your words don’t have to be a cure — just a helping hand or supportive shoulder if they need one.
Let us know below if you have any things you say to those who are struggling, and we can all start learning how to have a more impactful conversation about depression.