What Not to Say to People With Depression

Depression is a very sensitive topic, and you never know who’s battling with it behind the scenes. I did for 18 years, and people were still severely shocked when I told them. So just do everyone a favor, and avoid saying these things in general! 

For those of you who don’t suffer from depression: I know that most of you have good intentions, even when you say the things I’ve listed below. We know you’re just trying to help, but that’s the thing – most depressed people don’t want your help, especially if you haven’t personally experienced diagnosed depression. Because unfortunately, no matter how hard you try, you will never understand. We appreciate your efforts in trying to help, but we don’t want someone that doesn’t understand to tell us how we should feel. 

To explain why these things are more hurtful than helpful – I’m going to write a sentence that a non-depressed person has said to me (yes, all of these have been said to me), and I will give you my immediate thought response. I didn’t always physically say these things, but this is what I wish I should have said. 

I apologize in advance, I am very sassy and sarcastic.

“You don’t have anything to be upset about”, “You have it so much better than other people”, “You have so many blessings”, or “You should be thankful for what you have”

I know that I am blessed. I have a gratitude journal where I write down 5 things that I’m thankful for every day. Depression doesn’t discriminate – it doesn’t care if you are wealthy, healthy, loved, popular, etc. Think of it like cancer for your mental health – you can have a good life, but you still have a disease that you can’t control or stop. 

“Think positively”, “Cheer up”, “Look on the bright side”

I am fighting against my mind’s natural negative state from the moment I wake up until I go to sleep. I’m already trying. 

“My life isn’t fair but you don’t see me complaining”

Probably because you don’t have clinical depression like me 🙂

“You don’t even look/seem depressed.” 

I don’t want people to see me like that. I don’t want to upset or worry them. I don’t want people to give me unsolicited advice that I don’t want. I don’t want people to constantly check in. It makes everyone’s life (including mine) easier if I keep it to myself.

“Believe me, I know how you feel. I’ve been depressed before.” 

Unless you went to a doctor and got diagnosed with major depressive disorder, you do not know how I feel. 

“Are you done being upset?”, “Do you feel better now?”, “Are you feeling better than yesterday”

No. Plus, these are the questions that irritate me the most, so you’ve now made it worse. 

“You really shouldn’t be upset about this because ___”

Do you think saying that is going to make it magically go away for me? Because you, who most likely doesn’t have depression, thinks that it shouldn’t upset me?

“You should try ____” (Exercise, diet, sleep, etc.) “____ is what I do when I’m down, you should try it too”

I already do those things on a regular basis.. Didn’t cure my depression. 

“You don’t need medication”, “Medications are bad for you”, “Medications will mess you up even worse”

I have been medicated for over a year now and it’s the best decision I have ever made. Because of my medication: I no longer take 4 hour naps everyday, I don’t have extreme headaches anymore, I am a happier person, I am more productive.. The list goes on. Medications work differently for everyone, so don’t speak for me. 

“It’s all in your head”, “You can control this”, “You get to decide how you feel”, “You’re letting yourself feel this way”, “You’re fine” 

Obviously not. I don’t mope around for fun. I don’t pretend to be sad because it’s funny or because I see it as a game. 

“Everyone has bad days every once in a while”, “This too shall pass”, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”

Yes, it will pass. I will grow from this. I will probably be thankful for this period of time later on in life because I believe God has a plan – but doesn’t mean that it makes it feel better now. Imagine someone punches you and they say, “this pain will pass”, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”, “everyone gets punched every once in a while”. Does that make it hurt any less?

“Can you please stop being so negative? It’s taking a toll on me.”

Again, think about it like you got punched – and someone asks you to stop complaining about it hurting because it’s taking a toll on them. Does that make you hurt any less? 

“Keep yourself busy so you can distract yourself from it.” 

It’s a temporary fix. It always comes back. 

“Why are you always so negative?”, “What’s your problem?”

If I had to guess.. Probably freaking depression.

“I thought you were stronger than this”

Well, I guess you thought wrong. Thank you for making me feel worse. 

Those are my brutally honest thoughts and answers to the comments and questions I’ve received over the years. My advice for all of the people not struggling with depression: think before you speak. If you’re not sure if you should say it –  think about it like you got punched. What questions/statements would irritate you? My general rules are: don’t give advice, don’t pretend like you understand, and don’t downplay or question other’s feelings. 

Again, we appreciate people trying to help. But unless you’re some form of a mental health doctor – we would appreciate it more if you didn’t.

One thought on “What Not to Say to People With Depression

  1. This is great! I was diagnosed with depression 5 years ago, and I’ve been on medication ever since that has helped me so much. Keep fighting the fight and sharing your story!

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