10 things not to say to someone with depression

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What do you say to someone who suffers from depression? How do you know what is appropriate to say and what isn’t? Don’t worry, I am here to help you!

Before you say anything trying mentally switching places with the other person. Would you want to hear what you’re thing? If not switch gears and talk about something else.

Things you shouldn’t say to someone with depression

  1. Just think positive.
  2. Have you tried being happy?
  3. What do you have to be depressed about?
  4. There’s always someone who is worse off than you.
  5. Things could always be worse
  6. You’re just trying to get attention.
  7. You don’t look depressed.
  8. Have you tried exercising?
  9. It’s all in your head
  10. I was depressed once

Things not to say to someone with depression

Let’s take a deeper look into these statements/questions you should never say to someone with depression.

Just think positive

I’m hoping people are trying to be helpful with this statement but it’s kind of a slap in the face. I’m sure said person who is depressed has tried “thinking positive”. If happy thoughts fixed everything the world would be a much nicer place.

Have you tried being happy?

This goes along with number 1. This is NEVER a helpful thing to say. It makes it seem like depression is just a mindset, which it’s not.

What do you have to be depressed about?

Uh, comparison. The thief of joy. This question never ends well for anyone so please, don’t ask it.

Related post- what my mental illness taught me

There’s always someone who has it worse than you

For the most part people are generally well aware that people may be in “worse” situations. It doesn’t make what they are going through any less valid. Just as there are always people better off than you, there will be people worse off than you. That’s life. Still not a nice thing to say.

Things could always be worse

Well now you just triggered their anxiety if they suffer from it. This statement could easily start a waterfall of fears that said person wasn’t previously thinking about.

Related post- what is grounding?

You don’t look like you have depression

Fun fact: mental illness does not have a specific “look”. Yes, it can contribute to things such as poor hygiene, insomnia, paranoia. But it’s called a “invisible illness” for a reason.

You’re just trying to get attention

Okay, let’s really think about this. Would you say this to someone with a neurological condition like MS? I’m hoping you’re shaking your head no. Mental illness also has to do with the brain. So if you wouldn’t say it to someone with a neurological condition, why would you say it to someone with depression?

Have you tried exercising?

Yes, we know. Excercise creates endorphins and endorphins make you happy. Just consider that sometimes just getting out of bed seems like an impossible task.

Depression is all in your head

Well, considering depression is a mental illness and it’s caused by the brain you’re right. It doesn’t make it any better.

I was depressed once

So, let’s get this clear. Being sad and being depressed are not the same thing. Everyone gets sad at some point, not everyone is clinically depressed. A statement like this can make the depressed person feel less valid.

What should you say to someone with depression?

Here is a quick list of things that are more helpful to say to someone who has depression.

  1. I’m here for you
  2. Would you like to talk about it?
  3. I’m sorry this is something you have to go through
  4. Do you want me to just sit with you?
  5. You’re not in this alone

What are some things you reccomended not saying to someone with depression? If you have depression has anyone ever said anything inappropriate to you? Let me know down in the comments below.

Till next time,

Tanya xoxo

29 thoughts on “10 things not to say to someone with depression”

    1. I don’t have depression but I know a few people that do, and I never would have thought saying these things were a bad thing, but thank you so much for giving me some type of insight!

  1. This is so true. It’s infuriating when I’m told “just be happy” like I chose to be depressed. A phrase that I do like to be told “how are you? I’m here for you if you want to talk.”

    Loren | plaidandsugar.blogspot.com

  2. Yes! I agree with all of these! People who don’t have depression don’t understand, but that’s no reason to tell someone else how to feel.

    1. Exactly. I understand some people are trying to “help” but it sometimes ends up doing more harm.

  3. I think there’s still a lack of understanding about mental health. If you had a broken arm, something visible, people can generally empathise better with that. Mental health isn’t a ‘physical object’ that people can look at, and I think it scares people even though we ALL have mental health!

    Also, I sometimes think these comments come from a place where the person is trying to be helpful, but feels awkward and it comes out the wrong way. Don’t get me wrong, I totally get there are people that are just plain insensitive, but some people are genuinely trying to be supportive.

    I think people get caught up in the “I need to do something” state of mind, whereas if they “just” listen to the person, and let them know they’re there if the person needs to talk, that can be the most powerful and reassuring thing they can offer – their presence and time.

    1. I completely agree with you Jo, it’s hard to formulate cohesive thoughts when you’re nervous or uncomfortable.

  4. I can say “you are not alone”. When I went through my own depression I heard a variety of the same phrase you list at the start of the article. You are right, it’s the wrong things to say. I had to remind myself the people saying them mean well, but when you are in the grips of sadness, with a shovel digging lower, it can be impossible to hear it. Another one I used to get, “you have to fake it till you make it”. It is true, you have to pull yourself out. But sometimes we need a helping hand. Bravo for posting this. I hope it helps others understand.

    1. Thanks Thomas, yes I’ve heard that as well. If it was that easy then no one would have mental illness

  5. I agree 100% with all this, but also am guilty of not knowing the right thing to say to others when they’ve got depression… I think in general if someone has a good heart and just doesn’t know the right thing to say but is trying to help, it’s worth remembering their motivations too and trying to let stuff go (easier said than done when the 10th person tells you to exercise, I know!). Great article though xo

    1. I agree with you. Some people do me well, in situations that you’re not really versed in it’s hard to know what to say. Sometimes just sitting with them and listening if need be is the best option <3

    1. I know some (not all) people when they say stuff like this are coming from a good place and trying to be helpful. But it really is smart to consider what you are going to say to someone first. Things like these can come off as “insensitive”.

    2. I love the “have you tried not being sad?”. ……. well, now that you mention it, I never thought of that. Lol smh

  6. It blows my mind that some of these phrases are still as common as they are. I get that people are trying to be helpful in their own way, but with all the information that has been shared about depression, they are still asking us if we just ‘tried to be happy’…. OH MAN! That’s what I was missing! Jeez, and here I thought I had tried everything…. lol

    1. Lol *facepalm*. Why didn’t we think of that? Haha. Ya, sometimes people mean well, others are just down right ignorant. Thanks for reading Britt <3

  7. ALL. OF. THIS. So true and SO real. I “love” when people recommend exercising. Or essential oils. Or some weird fad diet. (Keto or intermittent fasting will NOT solve my mental health issues!) I know people are trying to be thoughtful/helpful, but their ignorance just shines through instead. Also, I do have a reason to be depressed: it’s called a chemical imbalance in my brain! I loved your suggestions for GOOD things to say. Sometimes it’s just the subtle acknowledgement and gesture that means the absolute most, even if you don’t take that person up on their offer. It just means the world that they even reached out. <3

    Brilliant post! I related sooooo much!!

    Emily | http://www.thatweirdgirllife.com

    1. Thanks so much Emily! That means a lot <3. Ya, sometimes people have their heart in the right place but their brain hasn't caught up

    1. No problem. I’ve had a lot of them said to me. Lol, just trying to help people avoid doing the same mistake

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