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What to Say When Someone Is Depressed

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Updated October 17, 2012

Do you know someone who is depressed, but you just aren't sure what you can say to help? While you may feel awkward and unsure at first. there really are no wrong things you can say as long as they come from a place of compassion and acceptance. However, these ten statements will give you a more firm idea of what might be helpful for your friend to hear.

1. Have You Told Your Doctor How You Are Feeling?

Treatment is a very important part of recovering from depression, but people often feel ashamed of their condition or pessimistic about whether treatment will really help them. If your friend has not yet seen a doctor, encourage him to seek help and reassure him that there is nothing wrong with asking for assistance. Depression is a real illness and very treatable. If he is already seeing a doctor, offer to help him in keeping up with medications and appointments until he is feeling well again.

2. I Care

These two simple words can mean so much to a person who may be feeling like the entire world is against him. But, you don't have to say a single word to get your message across. A hug or a gentle touch of the hand can speak volumes about what you are feeling. The important thing is to reach out to him and let him know that he matters to you.

3. Is There Anything I Can Do to Help?

Depression places a great weight on the person who has it, both physically and mentally, so there are probably many things you can do to ease the load as your friend recovers.

Please be aware however, he may be reluctant to accept your offer for fear of becoming a burden on you. So, make it clear that you don't mind at all. You are friends and you know he would do the same for you in a similar situation.

You should also be aware that he may feel so beaten down and tired from his depression that he doesn't even know himself what he might need. Be prepared with a few suggestions, just in case. For example, you might ask:

  • Could you use some help with housework or grocery shopping?
  • Would you like some company for awhile?
  • Would you like for me to drive you to your doctor appointments?

4. Do You Need Someone to Talk With?

Sometimes the most important thing you can do for a depressed friend is to simply listen sympathetically while he talks about what is bothering him, allowing him to relieve the pressure of all his pent up feelings. The relief of this pressure may be enough to lessen his pain and allow him to carry on until treatment takes over and corrects his brain chemistry.

5. I'm Here for You

Depression can be a very lonely experience. It can feel as if no one understands what you are feeling or even cares to understand. When you reach out to a friend and let him know that you are going to be there for him every step of the way it can be very reassuring.

6. Your Life Makes a Difference to Me

A common feeling among those who are depressed is that their lives don't matter, that no one would even care if they were gone. If you can sincerely tell your friend about all the ways that he does matter to you and to others around him this can help him to realize that he does have value and worth as a person.

7. I Understand (If You Really Do)

Before you tell someone that you understand, you should be certain that you do. Have you ever experienced clinical depression? If you have, it may be helpful to your friend to realize that you have experienced what he is now feeling and were able to get better. However, if what you have been through was just a mild case of the blues that lasted only a short time, the he may feel as if you are trivializing his experience. In this case, it would be best to simply admit that you don't understand what he is going through, but you care about him and want to try.

8. It's Okay to Feel This Way

Even though your friend's problems may seem minor to you, resist the urge to judge or come up with simple solutions. The biochemical imbalances associated with depression are what is driving how bad he feels about the situation, not the situation itself. Instead, let him know that you are sorry that he is feeling so bad and adopt an attitude of acceptance that this is how his depression is affecting him.

9. You Aren't Weak or Defective

With depression, there is a tendency to feel like we are weak or there is something wrong with us. Depression may be an illness for others, but we feel that it's a character flaw for us. Reassure your friend that depression really is an illness caused by a biochemical imbalance in his brain. It does not mean he is weak. In fact, it takes a great deal of strength to fight back so he is probably much stronger than the average person.

10. There Is Hope

While you are reassuring your friend that he has a real illness, you can also reassure him that there is hope, because, like any other medical illness, depression is treatable. Through the use of medications and therapy, he has a very good chance of returning to normal again.

What If I Say These Things and He Still Becomes Upset With Me?

It is possible that you can say all the "right" things and your friend will still becomes upset with you. Why? Because each person is an individual with his own unique thoughts and feelings. And, being angry and upset is the nature of the illness. Sometimes people will lash out at those trying to help them because they are hurting and they just don't know where to direct those bad feelings, so, whoever is nearby becomes a convenient target. If this happens with your friend, don't take it personally. Stay calm and continue to do what you can to love and support him in whatever way he will allow.

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