If you want to learn how to help someone with depression, do not say these things.
1. “You just need more sunlight! You should exercise more! Just let go of your sad thoughts!”
While the intention of giving advice is a loving one, it diminishes the significance of what the person is going through. I don’t doubt that sunlight, exercise, nutrient dense food, and ample deep sleep would make a positive impact on the depressed person’s cortisol levels, but to suggest that doing the thing you’re suggesting will be a magical cure-all is probably missing the point altogether.
They aren’t just kind of sad, they feel like they’re drowning. And they need more than the kind of advice you can find on any random health and wellness website listicle.
2. “Depression isn’t real. It’s all in your head. I’m sad sometimes too, you know.”
Hinting that their depression is something that they can just snap their fingers and walk away from belittles the crippling nature of the disease. If this were true, they would have already done this of their own accord.
3. “There are others who have it a lot worse. You’re so lucky. Your life is going so well compared to most people.”
Again, I get it. You think that you’re contextualizing their pain and reminding them of the good in their world in order to distract them from their depressive thoughts. But reminding them of things to be grateful for is more likely to inspire guilt than to make them feel much better.
It’s their internal dialogue of, “I KNOW I’m supposed to feel better than I do, but I don’t. And it f*cking sucks, and now I feel even worse for feeling like I’m so broken that I can’t even appreciate the good that I intellectually know is in my life” that wreaks havoc in their minds.
Believe me, people struggling with depression don’t usually need to be reminded of what is good in their lives. They’re well aware of it, and they feel guilty for not having the brain chemicals available to them to be able to feel gratitude for those things.
So, what do people struggling with depression need to hear? Here’s how to help someone with depression by saying these things.