Unsure what to say to someone who is depressed? Try these 7 things

Depression affects about 7.1% of American adults in any given year. Therefore, there’s a good chance that someone in your life has struggled with a depressive episode. 

If one of your friends or family members has depression, it’s likely your instinct to start providing them with reassurance, encouragement and advice. But knowing the right things to say to someone who is depressed can make a big difference in not only your relationship with them, but also in their overall mental health journey. 

What is depression?

If you want to know what to say to provide support for someone with depression, it’s important to know what the disorder actually is.

Major depressive disorder, or depression, is a mood disorder that causes overwhelming feelings of sadness. In addition to it being one of the most common mental health disorders in the U.S., it’s the No. 1 cause of disability in the country for people between the ages of 15 and 44.

It’s important to remember that just because someone is feeling sad doesn’t mean that they’re depressed. While everyone feels down every once in a while, depression symptoms can last weeks, months or even years.

Symptoms of depression include:

  • Feelings of sadness, malaise and hopelessness
  • Isolation
  • Substance abuse
  • Lack of interest and enjoyment in activities
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt
  • Changes in eating and/or sleeping patterns
  • Lack of concentration
  • Suicidality

7 things to say to someone with depression

It can be hard to know what to say if someone in your life is struggling with symptoms of depression. The key is making sure that they feel heard and that their feelings are validated. They deserve empathy, not pity or sympathy. 

Here are some suggestions for things to say to someone with depression:

  • “I’m here when you’re ready to talk.” — Just being there for someone with depression can make a difference. Letting them know that they can vent to you without judgment will make them feel like they can open up to you about their struggles.
  • “What can I do to help you today?” — The hopelessness and lethargy that can come with depression can prevent people from handling their daily responsibilities. Offering to help them with tasks like household chores or bringing them food lets them know that they can ask for help.
  • “I may not understand how you’re feeling, but you’re not alone.” — People with depression struggle to express their feelings to others because they feel that they won’t understand. It’s important to acknowledge the fact that you can’t relate to how they’re feeling, but you’re also there to support them through their mental health journey.
  • “How are you coping right now?” — Checking in with them about their current mindset and depression symptoms will allow the person to evaluate their feelings and determine if they need to vent or try a coping mechanism.
  • “You’ve been doing really great with …” — Depressive episodes can sometimes stem from a difficult situation in their personal life or struggling with a big life change. You can acknowledge their strength by noting their progress in dealing with a hard situation.
  • “You’re important to me.” — You should always let people know how much you care for them, especially if they’re struggling with suicidality from depression. Knowing that you appreciate and value their part in your life can help with their feelings of loneliness and hopelessness.
  • “I wish I had the right words to say, but just know that I care about you.” — Acknowledging the fact that you don’t know the right thing to say shows the person that you’re putting in the effort to support them. Letting them know that you care about them is sometimes all they need to hear.

Lightfully Behavioral Health can help families better support their loved ones with depression 

A support system from loved ones is crucial for people on a mental health journey to manage their depression. And while your words of encouragement and acknowledgment can help them feel less alone, they should still seek out long-term treatment options.

We offer four programs at our mental health treatment centers to assist people with their mental health journey while living with depression: residential treatment, Virtual Intensive Outpatient Program (vIOP), Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP), and Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP), also called our Day Treatment Program. 

Change is possible. When they’re ready to take the first step, they can reach out to our Admissions Concierge Team. We’ll take the next steps together, toward the fullest, brightest version of themselves.

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