5 Things to Never Say to Someone Who's Depressed

Starting the Conversation about Depression

I've always wanted my radio show and TheHopeLine to be a place where people felt comfortable talking about the tough stuff. A place where people could open up about the things they have been trying to hide. I know, once you start telling your story, you are on a path to healing. To be a safe place, it is often important to know what NOT to say about certain struggles. So today I address 5 things not to say to someone who's depressed.

Until we get rid of the unacceptable stigma of mental illness, it's going to be very hard for people to come forward for care.

Mental illness, including depression, anxiety, bi-polar, etc., can be hard to talk about. Unfortunately, there is a stigma surrounding mental illness that keeps people from opening up. They don't want to be seen as weak or fall into any stereotypes surrounding mental illness. According to the Surgeon General, Vivek Murthy, M.D, fewer than half of the people who have a mental illness get the care they need. He said, "Until we get rid of the unacceptable stigma of mental illness, it's going to be very hard for people to come forward for care."

Understanding Depression

Our partner organization, Centerstone, describes depression this way. "Depression is more than a day of feeling low. It is a long-lasting, often recurring illness as real and disabling as heart disease or arthritis. People with depression feel increasingly isolated from family and friends. One of the frustrating parts of dealing with depression is there are no outward signs or conclusive testing of the illness. There is no rash or fever. There isn’t a blood test to diagnose. So, people with depression are often treated as if they are making it up or should just be able to snap out of it. If you're wondering "why do I feel so lost and hopeless?", you might be battling depression."

Depression Affects Many People

Yet depression is very common, affecting about 10 percent of the U.S. population (almost 20 million people) every year. One in four women and one in ten men will experience a depressive episode in their lifetime. In our Guest Blog by Centerstone, Are you Depressed?, we address how you can know if you or someone you care about has depression. We also have a quick checklist about depression symptoms.

You can Be a Safe Place to Talk

As we open up this discussion, I want to address how to support someone who may be struggling with this illness. There are some very hurtful things that well-meaning people often say.

5 things to AVOID saying


1. What do you have to be depressed about?

There are people who have it much worse than you. The depressed person already knows this and doesn't need it pointed out to them. Often the most frustrating part of depression is that they can't explain why they feel like they do. Imagine what it must feel like to have a really good life and not be able to enjoy it. By asking them this question, you will make them feel even worse for seemingly not being grateful for what they have.

2. Happiness is a choice. You just need to change your mindset and focus on the positive.

When you say this to someone struggling with depression, you are essentially telling them that they are CHOOSING to be negative and sad that they are bringing this depression on themselves. If it was as simple as choosing to be happy, don't you think they would?

3. You don't need medication.

Unless you are a doctor, DO NOT give clinical or medical advice. Leave that to the professionals. Rather encourage someone facing depression to talk it over with their doctor.

4. You're depressed again?

Trust me, they are scared to be falling into depression again. For you to sound annoyed does not help.

5. Are you reading your Bible enough? Are you praying enough?

To someone who is depressed, asking them this question feels as if you are saying, "If you just trusted God more or had more faith, you wouldn't be depressed" somehow suggesting it is their fault God hasn't healed them. However, none of us can DO ENOUGH on our own to get God to act how we think He should. Thankfully, God's love and provision are not based on our performance. I trust completely that God's ways are wiser than ours and that He loves us like crazy. And while God removes some struggles immediately, He allows us to walk through others. And even though I might not understand, I believe He has a purpose in all things.

So, while healing is not based on our performance of Bible reading and prayer, these things can bring comfort. I would suggest saying something like this instead, I know you are trusting God, and I will pray that He brings you a peace that only He can bring. And, if you're interested, I can share some Bible verses to read when feeling hopeless. TheHopeLine has put together this list of Bible verses for you to share.

So now you know what NOT to say, but what can you do for someone struggling with depression?

Let them know that:

  • They are NOT alone.
  • You are NOT leaving.
  • Their struggle is real and you know that.
  • You are available to listen.
  • You are praying for them.

Here is a personal video message from me to anyone who feels like the situation is hopeless right now. DON’T EVER GIVE UP.

So tell me do you struggle with depression? What is it like for you?  Were you hurt by someone during a depressed season in your life? What is the most helpful thing someone could do for you? Do you have encouragement and advice for others who are struggling?

Let's get the conversation started - it's safe here!

If you or a friend need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, for free confidential, 24/7 help. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world. For additional help, please visit the suicide prevention resource page.

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8 comments on “5 Things to Never Say to Someone Who's Depressed”

  1. The hard part for me is trying to figure out what exactly is bothering me. Why I am feeling so down. Why at times I think ending it is the only way out? I don't know if its my past that is haunting me or my future that is scaring me? Do I feel hopeless about the future, and if I do, why? My trigger has been about my kids growing up and my youngest getting ready to go off to College. My oldest has been for 4 years now. Their mom and I are divorced so I don't have that spouse that is close to me to help me thru this. Right now, I just feel so alone, and my youngest is not even gone yet. I just cannot seem to find peace right now. I don't want my kids to see this because I do not want them to worry or not be excited about their new life coming up, but I am just having a really hard time. To the point where nothing else would calm me down except for the thought of ending it. Not having to feel the pain anymore. This sadness. But then I think about what it would do to my kids and that kills me also. I almost feel stuck. I don't want to feel this way anymore. I want to feel better. I want to be ok. I just want to be ok.

  2. I tried to reach out for help but when I tried to talk about my depression with my mum she looked super angry and she told me I am crazy ....nobody understands and I don't know what to do anymore..I won't ever be 'Okay'.

  3. I know I have depression. I have for several years. Then when my daughter was born in 2012, it go t worse. I resented myself for this and many other aspects of my life. I am currently trying to be in a loving relationship but even that doesn't work. I find myself blaming my. Partner when he tells me certain things he dislikes that I do . I don't see it as constructive criticism, I see it as me being a failure.

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