Depression What to Say to Someone Who Is Depressed Finding the Words to Help By Nancy Schimelpfening Nancy Schimelpfening Nancy Schimelpfening, MS is the administrator for the non-profit depression support group Depression Sanctuary. Nancy has a lifetime of experience with depression, experiencing firsthand how devastating this illness can be. Learn about our editorial process Updated on July 19, 2022 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by Steven Gans, MD Medically reviewed by Steven Gans, MD Steven Gans, MD is board-certified in psychiatry and is an active supervisor, teacher, and mentor at Massachusetts General Hospital. Learn about our Medical Review Board Print Verywell / Ellen Lindner Knowing what to say to someone who is depressed isn't always easy. Try not to be dissuaded by worry over saying the "wrong" thing. Too many people with clinical depression feel alone—a state that only worsens their condition. If you don't know what to say, just say that—and tell your friend that you are there for them. This article discusses what you can do when you want to say more, but have a hard time expressing what you feel. It also covers statements that someone who is depressed might find helpful to hear. Tell Them You Care These two simple words—"I care"—can mean so much to a person who may be feeling like the entire world is against them. A hug or a gentle touch of the hand can even get this message across. The important thing is to reach out and let the person know that they matter to you. While you may feel awkward and unsure at first, know that whatever you say doesn't have to be profound or poetic. It should simply be something that comes from a place of compassion and acceptance. Remind Them You're There for Them Depression can feel as though no one understands what you are feeling or even cares enough to try to understand, which can be isolating and overwhelming. Research has shown that people tend to withdraw when they are depressed, so reaching out to a friend in need is an important first step. If your friend isn't ready to talk, continue to offer your support by spending time with them and try to check in regularly, either in person, on the phone, or by text. When you reach out to a friend, letting them know that you are going to be there every step of the way can be very reassuring. You may not quite know what this will look like at first, but know that just reminding your friend that you are someone they can lean on can mean the world. Ask How You Can Help Depression places a great weight on the person who is experiencing it, both physically and mentally, so there are probably many things you can do to ease the burden as your friend recovers. Your friend may be reluctant to accept your offer for fear of becoming a burden on you, so make it clear that you don't mind and want to help in the same way you know they would for you in a similar situation. It is also possible that depression may leave your friend so tired and down that they don't even know what kind of help to ask for. Be prepared with a few specific suggestions, which may include: Could you use some help with housework or grocery shopping? Would you like some company for a while? Would you like me to drive you to your doctor appointments? Being specific in regards to both the time and the activity can be helpful. For example, instead of saying "Is there anything I can do for you?" perhaps ask, "Could I come over on Saturday morning and do some yard work for you?" Remember, too, that the help you think your friend may need may not match with what would actually be beneficial in their eyes. Suggest—and listen. Recap Depression can make daily tasks and other obligations much more difficult. Lending tangible, practical support can be a great way to help someone who is depressed. Urge Them to Talk With a Doctor Depression treatments are a very important part of recovering from depression, but people often feel ashamed of their condition or pessimistic about whether treatment will really help. If your friend has not yet seen a doctor, encourage them to seek help and reassure them that there is nothing wrong with asking for assistance. Depression is a real—and treatable—illness. If your friend is already seeing a doctor, offer to help with picking up medications and being on time for appointments. Ask Them If They Want to Talk Sometimes the most important thing you can do for a depressed friend is to just listen sympathetically while they talk about what is bothering them, allowing them to relieve the pressure of pent-up feelings. Make sure to listen without interrupting. We all wish to fix things for those we care about and often offer quick fixes to cope with our own feelings of helplessness. Sometimes people who are depressed just need to talk without having the conversation taken over with well-meaning advice. Recap Listening can help make their mental and emotional pain more bearable as they go through the course of treatment prescribed by their doctor and/or therapist. Remind Them That They Matter A common feeling among those who are depressed is that their lives don't matter and no one would even care if they were gone. If you can sincerely tell your friend about all the ways that they matter to you and others, this can help them realize that they have value and worth. Letting them know that they are an important person in your life can mean a lot when someone is struggling with feelings of depression and worthlessness. Tell Them You Understand (If You Really Do) Before you tell someone "I understand," you should be certain that you actually do. Have you ever experienced clinically significant depression? If you have, it may be helpful for your friend to hear that you have experienced what they are feeling and that it can get better. Keep in mind, however, that there are several different types of depression, and even if you did experience clinical depression, it may have been very different than what your friend is going through. If what you have been through was a case of the blues, on the other hand, your friend may feel like you are trivializing their experience by comparing it to yours. In this case, it would be best to simply admit that you don't understand exactly what they are going through, but that you care about them and want to try. Often, the best words to say are, "I don't understand, but I really want to." Remind Them It's OK to Feel The Way They Feel Even if your friend's problems may seem minor to you, resist the urge to judge or come up with simple solutions. The biochemical imbalances associated with depression are what is driving how bad your friend feels about certain situations—not necessarily the situations themselves. Instead, let them know that you are sorry that they are feeling so badly and adopt an attitude of acceptance that this is how their depression is affecting them. If your friend only recently started taking medications or attending counseling, it can take time for them to begin to feel better. Just as an antibiotic for strep throat takes a while to work, antidepressants can take some time to change chemicals in the brain (sometimes upwards of eight weeks or longer). During this time, what your friend needs most is not references to fast, easy solutions, but an awareness that you will be by their side through their treatment. Assure Them They're Not Weak or Defective Those who are coping with depression tend to feel weak or that there is something wrong with them. While depression is an illness, those who live with it may feel that it's a character flaw. Reassure your friend that depression really is an illness caused by a biochemical imbalance in the brain, and it does not mean that they are weak. In fact, it takes a great deal of strength to fight back, so they are probably much stronger than they think they are. Recap Depression is a common mental health condition that can affect anyone. Let your loved one know that these feelings are not their fault and remind them how strong, resilient, and capable they are. Emphasize That There's Hope While you are reassuring your friend that they have a real illness, you can also reassure them that there is hope, because, like any other medical illness, depression is treatable. Through the use of medications and therapy, your friend has a very good chance of returning to feeling normal again. When Good Intentions Go Wrong It's possible that you can say all the "right" things and your friend will still become upset with you. Every person is an individual with unique thoughts and feelings, and being angry and upset is the nature of depression. Sometimes people will lash out at those trying to help them because they are hurting and don't know where to direct those bad feelings. Whoever is nearby becomes a convenient target. If this happens, try not to take it personally. Stay calm and continue to do what you can to love and support your friend in whatever way they will allow. Know the Warning Signs of Suicide The risk of suicide is high in those living with depression. No matter what you say or what you do to help your friend, they may still experience suicidal thoughts and feelings. Make sure to be on the lookout for warning signs of suicide and know when to seek help. Some signs to watch for include: Talking about wanting to dieExpressing that they feel like a burden to othersFeelings of extreme hopelessness and sadnessWithdrawing from friends and loved onesSudden mood swingsGiving away possessions or making a willMaking ambiguous statements about not being around in the futureOpen discussions about suicide or having a suicide planPrevious suicide attempts If you spot warning signs of suicide, you should talk to your loved one and ask them to speak with a mental health professional. When there is an immediate risk, you should remove dangerous items from the home, make sure you don't leave them alone, and get help from a medical professional immediately. If you or someone you love are having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911. For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database. What to Say to Someone Who Is Suicidal A Word From Verywell Often the simplest way to initiate a conversation is to be direct: Ask your friend if they are depressed. Don't accuse, threaten, blame, or make light of what your friend is feeling. Let them know that you care and that you are there to talk about it if they want to. Show your support, look for ways that you can help, and remind them that effective treatments are available. Encourage them to get help from a mental health professional and be on the lookout for signs of suicidal thinking or behavior. 10 Ways to Help Someone With Depression 10 Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Cacioppo JT, Hughes ME, Waite LJ, Hawkley LC, Thisted RA. Loneliness as a specific risk factor for depressive symptoms: Cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses. Psychol Aging. 2006;21(1):140-51. doi:10.1037/0882-7918.104.22.168 Griffiths KM, Crisp DA, Barney L, Reid R. Seeking help for depression from family and friends: A qualitative analysis of perceived advantages and disadvantages. BMC Psychiatry. 2011;11:196. doi:10.1186/1471-244X-11-196 Werner-Seidler A, Afzali MH, Chapman C, Sunderland M, Slade T. 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Can J Psychiatry. 2016;61(9):540-60. doi:10.1177/0706743716659417 Lépine JP, Briley M. The increasing burden of depression. Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat. 2011;7(Suppl 1):3-7. doi:10.2147/NDT.S19617 National Institute of Mental Health. Warning signs of suicide. Additional Reading Gariépy G, Honkaniemi H, Quesnel-Vallée A. Social support and protection from depression: Systematic review of current findings in Western countries. Br J Psychiatry. 2016;209(4):284-293. doi:10.1192/bjp.bp.115.169094 By Nancy Schimelpfening Nancy Schimelpfening, MS is the administrator for the non-profit depression support group Depression Sanctuary. Nancy has a lifetime of experience with depression, experiencing firsthand how devastating this illness can be. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? 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