When we know a friend or family member is struggling with depression, it’s often difficult to know what to say.
Often, we have the best intentions: we all just want to help, be supportive, and provide comfort if we can. But, have you ever accidentally come off as awkward, or hurtful? It can be really difficult to figure out what to say.
If someone you love has shared that they have depression, here are a few suggestions for helpful things you can say.
“I hear you.”
It’s so easy to jump in with advice. You’re just trying to be helpful, right?
However, it’s usually best if we try to resist the urge to “fix” the problem. It can be much more helpful just to let someone know you’re listening. Help them feel validated just by letting them know you are all ears.
People experiencing mental health symptoms can feel unheard, lost, or alone. They may feel that no one is really listening to how they feel, or that they’re boring people with their story. So, instead of trying to offer up advice or relate with a similar story, just say, “I hear you.”
A common symptom of depression is an overwhelming feeling of hopelessness or futility. Someone with depression might feel like what they’re doing is pointless or meaningless. They might also lack motivation and direction.
Make sure that the person in your life with depression knows that they matter to you and that their life has meaning.
“How can I help?”
Depression manifests in our lives in many ways, and it often means more than just feeling extreme sadness. During a depressive episode, it can be incredibly difficult for someone to keep up with responsibilities. Everyday chores, like washing laundry, running errands, grocery shopping, and cooking meals fall to the side — and eventually start piling up.
While you might not be able to lift that depression fog for your loved one, there is something else really helpful that you can do: ease the burden by offering to handle some of their to-do list. You could vacuum or sweep up, wash a few loads of laundry, or prep some healthy meals. Any little bit makes things a lot less overwhelming.
“You are strong.”
People with depression can sometimes feel like they are weak, or something is wrong with them. Or, they may feel powerless because they are struggling with something they can’t control.
In truth, though, your loved one struggling with depression is stronger and more resilient than they think. Take the time to tell your loved one that you see how strong they are, especially for being open and honest about what they’re dealing with.
“Have you talked to your therapist or doctor?”
You shouldn’t push someone with depression beyond their comfort zone, but suggesting therapy or medication in a gentle way can be a good idea.
A qualified professional is always the best person to help with mental health. They are equipped with the proper training, and can set up a treatment plan or prescribe antidepressants.
Consider asking your loved one if they have spoken to their regular physician — or their existing counselor or therapist, if they already have one — about their feelings and what they are dealing with.