What To Say To Someone Who is Depressed
If someone you love is experiencing depression, it can make you feel helpless. It’s hard to know what you can do or say to make them feel better, and it can be difficult to not take it personally if they don’t take to your efforts.
It’s normal to want to help someone you care about when you see them struggling, and PYM wants to help. We’ve come up with a list of what you can say to someone coping with depression, as well as a few other helpful hints.
The Importance of Reaching Out
Before we get into the ways in which you can appropriately reach out to someone who is struggling with their depression, we want to briefly touch on the reasons why reaching out is important in the first place.
To start with, depression is such a difficult mental health issue because it is very good at camouflage.
People who are struggling with depression don’t look like they do in movies and TV shows. Many people put on a mask and appear to be happy, like nothing is bothering them. Whether this is because they don’t want people to know that they’re having a hard time, or they just don’t want to be a burden, the end result is that it can make it much harder to be there for them because there’s no obvious signs that they need you to be there for them.
Keep in mind that not showing emotions or not asking for help doesn’t mean that they don’t want or need it. In a lot of cases, hiding feelings like this is actually a sign that they may need your love and support more than ever.
Here are a few of the more common signs that someone you love may be struggling with depression:
- Loss of interest in doing things that they previously enjoyed
- Withdrawal from friends and family
- Noticeable changes in sleeping or eating patterns
- Crying and/or getting more irritable than usual with no obvious triggers
- Slower movements or speech patterns
- Difficulty thinking clearly or focusing
- Lower self esteem, negative self talk, or blaming themselves unnecessarily
- Unexplainable physical pain
Studies have also shown that people who have depression or anxiety do better when they have social support, no matter where that comes from. That support is actually referred to as a “protective factor,” meaning a factor that can actually reduce the likelihood of a negative outcome. When we’re talking about depression, those negative outcomes have the potential to be permanent, so showing your support can be lifesaving in more ways than one.
Things To Say To Someone Who is Depressed
”You’re not alone.”
Depression is very isolating. When people are far into the depths of their depression, they often feel like they’re sitting at the bottom of a very dark, deep hole by themselves. This is especially difficult for people who aren’t capable of reaching out for help or connection when they need it the most.
When you remind the people in your lives that are suffering from depression that you are there for them, and that they are not alone in their struggle, you open up a line of communication while also showing them just how much you support them. Just those few, simple words can make a world of difference.
”Your feelings are valid.”
Society isn’t always so understanding towards people who have mental health concerns. People who talk about them openly are often subjected to personal attacks and judgement, even from the people who say they care about them the most.
Telling your loved one that their feelings are valid, and that you validate their depression as a real health condition, helps them to feel like it is more safe to open up to you. Creating a safe space where they know they can come and talk to you, whether that is venting, crying, or just small talk (or text) when they’re having a bad day is an incredible way to show your support.
”Do you want to talk?”
You should never force anyone into talking if they’re not willing or ready, but giving them the opportunity to talk about their problems gives them the opening to start that conversation if they need or want to.
This doesn’t require that you get too far into their personal business, or even specifically mention the word “depression.” Just asking if they need to talk, or even saying you’ve noticed that they seem to be having a harder time, can allow them the opportunity and space to talk. While they may just say that they’re “fine,” they’ll know that you are there for them when they’re ready.
”How can I help?”
While not everyone will be able to verbalize that they need help or how their loved ones can be of help, simply asking the question lets them know that you’re there and willing to do whatever needs to be done to help them get through this.
The caveat with asking how you can help is that you actually need to help. Don’t ask this in an empty way -- be willing and able to follow through with helping in whatever way they ask. You’re not only supporting them, you’re also building trust that you’ll continue to be there for them in the future. Just asking if they need help is helping.
”I love you.”
There is very little in the world that is more comforting than hearing “I love you” from someone. Those three simple words have actually been proven to be good for your health. Love can reduce your stress levels and anxiety, flood your body with dopamine (the “feel good” hormone), and can even help people live longer.
For those who are struggling, being reminded that they are important and loved can be the light at the end of the tunnel. Often, those with depression can feel like they are not worthy of love and convince themselves that everyone hates them. When you say “I love you,” it can be a boost of confidence and self esteem.
Things To Do For Someone Who is Depressed
Small gestures mean a lot.
Whether that is coming over to deliver groceries, helping them clean their house when they’re having a really bad bout of depression, or making them a care package with mental health boosters like home baked items, PYM Mood Chews, and warm, fuzzy slippers, small gestures mean a lot. It shows that you’re thinking of them, and that you’re there for them, without forcing them to talk or even get out of bed. Even a small card left at their doorstep can chance the course of their entire day.
While people with depression tend to be more likely to break plans (especially on those days that it feels impossible to even get out of bed), continuing to make plans with them is helpful in multiple ways.
For one, having plans gives them something to look forward to. This can be a concert, a nice dinner out, or even just a hang out at a local coffee shop. Having something scheduled can be the motivation that they need to follow through and get out of the house. Don’t be offended or upset if they cancel, though. Depression can make even things that they love seem overwhelming and exhausting.
For two, especially over time, continuing to make plans with your loved one, even if they’ve cancelled on you before, reminds them that you’re solidly in their corner. It can be hard to get cancelled on, but remind yourself that it’s not directed at you personally.
You don’t have to call someone or even be physically with them to be supportive. If you want to show your love and support, you can even do something as seemingly small as just sending them a text message.
Don’t expect a response, just let them know that you’re thinking about them and you’re there for them. Any of the above make great text messages, especially leaving them open-ended.
Keep an eye on whether or not they actually read your message, though. If you’re worried about them and notice that your message goes unread for a day or two, consider dropping by just to check on them and make sure they’re ok.
Just be there.
Sometimes it’s not about big outings or long, heart to heart conversations. Just being there -- next to them on the couch, sitting on the porch, even just taking a walk around the block -- can be more impactful than big, overwhelming gestures.
Depression can be isolating. If your loved one is going through a particularly bad bout of depression, knowing what you can say or do to help can make a bigger difference than you realize.
PYM knows it can make people feel helpless to watch someone they love go through a condition that can’t be physically seen, but being a good support system gives them the strength to fight on.