Talking about mental health is so important. But knowing how to talk about it is just as important. Knowing what to say, and what not to say, can be really daunting. Reading advice from medical professionals is valuable, but sometimes the best people to give advice are those who have been on the receiving end.
So, here are 5 things NOT to say to someone with depression, from people who have had depression.
- “Have you tried not being depressed.”
Where to begin with this one. I’m not a mental health expert, but I’m pretty sure no one chooses to be depressed. Saying this makes it sound like depression is a choice, something you can opt in or out of. And that just isn’t the case. So, just don’t say this to anyone. Ever.
- “You have so much to be grateful for. So many people have it worse.”
Again, this is assuming that the person suffering from depression has chosen to feel this way. They are probably feeling guilty for being depressed and will be aware of the impact it may have on their loved ones. Comparing your own issues to others is so tempting but can be really harmful. Yes, other people may have it worse, but that does not make what you’re feeling any less valid. Try saying, “whatever you’re feeling is important” instead.
- “Just do some exercise.”
Wow thank you SO much. What an insightful piece of advice. People suffering from depression will know all the things that supposedly help. They probably know that eating healthily, exercising regularly, and practicing mindfulness are all proven to aid mental health recovery. But don’t just assume that they haven’t tried these things already. Different things work for different people. Try saying, “is there anything I can do for you?” instead.
- “You seem fine.”
People struggling with mental health are sometimes the best liars. You build a façade of someone who is fine. So yes, even though someone might seem fine, it absolutely does not mean that they are. Try saying, “how are you feeling?” instead.
- “Cheer up.”
Just no. Depression is a medical illness. It is caused by chemical imbalance and lots of complex science which I won’t try and pretend like I understand. But I know that if people with depression could just ‘cheer up’ then they would. But they can’t. It is more complicated than that. So, don’t say things which belittle the severity of what they’re going through.
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