6 Things You Should Never Say to a Person Dealing with Depression

So yeah, I have a depression. *Confetti cannon goes off*.

I’m still brainstorming good ways to announce my mental health issues. Which do you think is better, confetti or a singing telegram?

It’s not easy to say out loud – there’s nothing enjoyable about depression, it is just awful. But what’s just as awful, is the stigma that comes along with it, the shame and the misconceptions.

Because mental illnesses are invisible, some people confuse that for being nonexistent. But can you see all the WiFi surrounding you as you read my blog on the internet? No! Yet it’s still there, thank God. (Somebody better get that joke, because I think it’s bloody hilarious)

That leads me on to the first comment – yes I am a person with depression and I just made a joke. I can laugh, and it doesn’t magically cure me.

#1 “Just cheer up” or “Just be more positive”

This comment might be well intended, but it hurts so much. It shows a lack of understanding of how serious and real depression is. It makes depression seem like a choice, but nobody would choice misery over happiness if it was just that.

Alternatively, you could start telling people with a broken leg to just get up and walk, or deaf people to just listen – but at least they wouldn’t be able to hear you.

#2 “You can’t be depressed, you look so happy”

Surprise mother ducker. Depression is a mental illness. I am perfectly capable of smiling one day, then the next day spend all day in bed, because just the thought of getting up makes me break down. Which day do you think I’d take a selfie?

The same goes for social happenings – I can go to class, seem normal, then come home completely exhausted, because I’m constantly fighting not to break down or seem unhappy. You can’t tell how somebody is really feeling based on a small glimpse into their life.

#3 “It’s all in your head”

So are a brain tumors. Still dangerous, still very real.

Depression is caused by chemical imbalances in the brain, and it’s not something anybody would ever choose. Just because it’s in your head, it’s not something you have absolute control over. Recovering from depression is not as simple as thinking differently, and it often comes along with physical pain as well – yes, it can make you feel physically sick.

Picture 1: A depressed person. Picture 2: Still a depressed person. Pictures are only a couple of days apart. I really don't feel like publishing this image, but it goes to prove my point. - This is how a depressed person looks
Picture 1: A depressed person. Picture 2: Still a depressed person. Pictures are only a couple of days apart. I really don’t feel like publishing this image, but it goes to prove my point. – This is how a depressed person looks

#4 “I totally get it, I was so depressed after [sad event]”

Depression and grief are not the same thing. Everyone feels sad when sad things happens – that is not the same as knowing that it is like to be depressed. Saying this dismisses the depressed person’s feelings, and invalidates them. There’s a big different between feeling blue and being depressed.

Your intention may be to make them feel like they’re not alone, but you’re actually saying you don’t take their struggles serious.

#5 “It could be worse”

It could be worse if [insert something worse than depression according to a person who doesn’t understand depression].

Admitted, there are things that are worse than depression. Lots of other people have it worse, and I am already very aware of that. Trust me, I feel plenty guilty for not appreciating all the good things I have already. But depression is just not that simple, it’s not that easy to get over.

Instead of telling somebody to feel lucky for what they have, say you’re sorry they’re going through a rough time. Instead of saying they aren’t the only one who goes through rough times, ask if they feel alone.

#6 “Why are you depressed?”

This might seem like an innocent question, trying to be understanding – but the thing is, there’s not always a reason for it. Depression is complex, and rarely has a simple trigger.

I can’t tell you why I am depressed. I can list some contributing factors that brought me here, that I am working on improving now. But it’s different for everyone. I was hesitant to seek help, because I couldn’t justify being depressed. There was no obvious reason, and it made me doubt it was real, even when my body was screaming the opposite at me.

Instead of asking why, ask what you can do to help them feel better.

Offer your help. If you’re a good friend, don’t just say “Call me if you need me”, say

  • “I’ll come over and help you cook dinner”
  • “I’ll bring groceries over tomorrow”
  • “I’ll help you clean up the kitchen”

Because it’s hard to admit you need help, and even simple every day task can seem impossible when you’re feeling down.

Being depressed is already hard – don’t make it worse with your ignorance.

I am sorry if I come across a little harsh when making some points. I think a lot of people who make these comment wants to help, and don’t realize how hurtful their comments can be. You’re a not a bad person if you’ve made one of these comments, but I hope you’re prepared better if you’re in a similar situation now.

Maybe you don’t share my view on every comment and that’s okay – there’s room for different opinions here.

If you have a mental illness, how do you wish people talked to you about it? If you don’t, what do you do to help a friend who’s struggling?

Gif that says lots of love, Anne xx

Since you made it to the end, you may as well follow me on Instagram – but their algorithm is a bit of a mystery, so you can sign up to the newsletter to not miss out on the best posts! ✨

6 Things You Should Never Say to a Person Dealing with Depression6 Things You Should Never Say to a Person Dealing with Depression
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  1. One other phrase that can get very patronizing when you’re depressed is, I’m sorry. When your friends ask what’s wrong and you tell them and all they say is I’m sorry. Then you have to tell them it’s not their fault and they say I know. ..ugh

  2. This is one of the best posts I have seen in a while. I actually recently commented a really long message on your first post about depression(I figured you hadn’t seen it yet so I’m just letting you know that it is there aha)? Also when people mention that others have it worse it actually increases the depression as a symptom of depression is constantly feeling guilty about “not appreciating the good things you have in life”. I thought this post was pretty accurate and I really hope you make more based on depression to spread awareness to those who don’t understand it. I think the hardest thing about having depression is when those who you are incredibly close to and love don’t understand. Like my best friend and my parents don’t understand why I can’t do work easily. I used to be working all the time effortlessly and doing really well in school but now i really struggle to do basic homework and everyone seems to struggle to understand why and I always worry that everyone thinks I am just too lazy to do it. Also, my parents think that the reason for my depression is doing specific things (like seeing my friends etc) but actually that is great that I am doing that because I am actually able to go and do things and them stopping me from doing that is making it worse and it is the worst thing in the world when your own parents dont understand.
    Thanks Anne, you always make such great posts:)xx

    1. says: Anne

      That means so much to me! I don’t remember seeing your comment – I try to respond to all comments, but sometimes I miss a few (I’ll look for it as soon as I’m done writing this). You’re totally right, it’s so ironic that it would be funny if depression wasn’t such a shitty thing. I really think more openness, and generally talking about mental health can make it a lot easier to live with, so people have a better understanding of why and what it means, because surprisingly few do right now. Even if I don’t have that big an audience, I hope the community can make a difference together x

  3. I had never been in contact with someone with a mental illness and I’m glad I didn’t as it means the people I’m close with are ok and especially because I wouldn’t know the best way to deal with it. I think I would just try to make sure that they know I’m there for them if they ever need anything but at the same time I’d treat them normally and I’d do my best to make them feel a little bit better at least.. I don’t really know to be honest..

    1. says: Anne

      I think you can come a long way with an open mind and a loving heart. There’s no easy way to deal with mental health problems (because it’s shit), but just showing the person you still love them can make the world of a difference – but I do that you’ll never have to deal with that, as I wouldn’t want it for anyone! x

  4. THIS IS SO SO SO TRUE!!! I really want to blog about my mental health and that, but I just haven’t found the words to say yet. It’s hard to explain when sometimes you can’t even explain it yourself. But I think this post is a great start and you’ve done so well on hitting the nail on the head regarding what not to say to people. People, including friends and family have also said these things to me too. It’s so harmful. People need to realise things from the sufferers point of view x

    Lauren | itslaurenvictoria.blogspot.co.uk

    1. says: Anne

      Thank you so much Lauren. It’s so hard to explain mental health, because in some ways, it makes no sense – but it’s still there, so we have to talk about it, as much a we can. I hope you’re doing okay xx

  5. says: Becky

    THIS!!! Honestly this was amazing to read because you covered everything and I agreed with all that you said. Mental health needs more awareness, and more understanding. I can’t emphasise that enough. It hurts me when people laugh at me, don’t believe me, tell me to just ‘cheer up’ when I tell them about my mental health problems. It’s 2016, people need to be more accepting, more understanding. XX
    Becky Shannon xx – Life-by-Becky

    1. says: Anne

      Exactly! There’s some people I really want to punch in the face (figuratively ofc…). I’m hoping it will continue to change for the better this year xx

  6. says: evergreen

    This is a great post! I have generalized anxiety disorder and food addiction which is because of anxiety so I can relate with this since depression and anxiety has very common issues…I have nobody to support and understand how painful it is,unfortunately even my mom doesn’t accept that I am suffering.I usually read other people’s posts about anxiety,depression,food addiction etc to see that I am not alone and these days I have been reading a book ‘my age of anxiety’ by Scott Stossel to understand and examine my problems to get better.And writing journal makes me feel better I guess as well as painting or just doodling 🙂 Thank you so much for posting such honestly and frankly 🙂

    1. says: Anne

      Thank you! Discovering the online community, where it’s okay to talk about mental health has been so good for me – I’ve been so ashamed I couldn’t even tell my closest family about it, but knowing that I’m not alone is helping me accept it and open more up x

  7. says: Essential Twenty

    I have mixed anxiety and depressive disorder and I have heard every single one of these from people I know, and Iost a ton of friends thanks to it. However, a slight silver lining is that I went through it and now my best friend’s dad has it and she kind of knows how to handle it. Obviously everyone is different but she has more of an understanding. I think people just need to be a little more mindful about what they say to people – whether they’re depressed, physically ill or perfectly fine. You don’t know what people are going through so just be nice to them.

    Sophie x

  8. says: Francesca

    This is a great post, exactly how I would have worded it. I fell into a deep depression a few years ago and lost a lot of friends along the way. It was too much trouble for them to text or pick up the phone and see how I was. It’s disgusting that people treat depression as something to avoid or roll their eyes at.
    Thanks for writing this. Makes me feel like I’m not the only one. Xx

  9. says: Ice_Badger

    “it could be worse” is the most stupid thing that people could say to anyone!

    It belittles and invalidates their problem! Just because someone else might have it worse doesn’t may your own situation any better. And it doesn’t mean you aren’t allowed to feel bad about the thing that has happened to you! It is like when people say “it is all relative”…no it isn’t things are as bad as they are and you are allowed to acknowledge that! When I had a broken leg, the fact that someone else might have two broken legs didn’t make my leg better in any way at all. so there is no reason why someone feeling worse than you should make your depression better! I had, (have really as it never actually goes you just cope better sometimes) for years and luckily noone said this to me or i may have shouted at them. Actuallyt that is not true, I would now, then I would have smiled faintly then cried later but you know what I mean!
    You don’t hear people going around saying “well, it is all relative, it could be better” when people have done well in something or are happy…
    “yeay I passed my exams” “oh well, so and so won the Nobel prize, it could be better”
    how patronising would that be… so why is it ok when you are sad/hurt/depressed etc!!

    Sorry…I may have a pet rant just there…

    This is a nicely written explanation, it is hard for people to understand depression, especially as the word depressed gets thrown around a lot when what people really mean is “a bit sad”. If it had a fancy name like Depression and Anxiety Total Debilitation Syndrome and you could use a fancy acronym, then people might take it more seriously. which is blooming ridiculous but probably true!

    sorry for ranting in your comments :-/

    1. says: Anne

      I love your rant! This is something that matters a lot to me too, so I understand why you find it hard to stop! I’ve promised myself I’ll no longer let people tell me how to feel (I always used to be the one that avoids conflicts at all cost, then go home and cry). Thank you x

      1. says: Ice_Badger

        🙂 I am so glad!
        And I am pleased that you are trying not to let people dictate your feelings! I have been working on that a long time, it is hard work but worth it! (Not that I am all the way there yet!!)

  10. says: Patti

    I’m sorry to hear that you suffer from depression, as I can only imagine how you must feel. I guess you are right when you say that people saying those things don’t mean no harm, but ignorance can hurt just as much as intentional insult. I hate it when people say “it could be worse”. Of course it could be. Everything could be worse when you look at it like that. That doesn’t mean you are not allowed to feel bad about it. And Dumbledore already knew the answer to people saying “it’s only in your head”. Because really, why should that mean it’s not real?

    1. says: Anne

      Ah, Dumbledore is always right, people better listen to him! Now he just needs to come up with a spell that removes ‘it could be worse’ from the language… 😀 xx

  11. says: Fed

    Very brave of you to write this 🙂 Point 5 (it could be worse) is a moot point. I think for most people in a developed society, it can always “be worse” for us but that doesn’t mean we never have the right to feel down. Otherwise that’s like saying we should never be happy because someone else is even happier than wr are.

  12. I am sorry to hear that you are going through this. I can relate as well, as I have social anxiety and I feel like people just don’t understand the full concept of it. Same goes with depression. People do not know a lot about these kind of things and, truth to be told, they won’t understand it if they never experienced it. It’s like we can’t know what it’s like to have tumor because we never had it, we only saw how it’s like, but it’s not the same.
    I do wish that people would stop saying “I get it, it’s okay” because I truly know that they don’t get it. And a lot of people do think that social anxiety is only this shyness I have. But it is so much more and I can do nothing to change their view on it. Even if I will have a panic attack in front of their face, they will still think that “it happens to all of us”.

    -Leta | The Nerdy Me

    1. says: Anne

      I’m sorry to hear you’re struggling too. It’s sad that people can’t understand it because it seems so irrational, so they try to make it into something they do understand – but social anxiety is not the same thing, even though it may look the same on the outside, people with anxiety can feel like their dying on the inside. It might take a while before it becomes generally understood, but at least we have each other xx

  13. says: Christa

    As someone who lives with ADHD, comorbid with anxiety and depression, it’s been a process to speak to my loved ones about my mental illness. For the most part, because I regularly see a therapist and am on a pretty rigid therapeutic medication regiment, it’s sorta been hush-hush and a “need to know” basis sort of thing. But I also spent the majority of my undergraduate degree researching mental illness stigma, and I felt ashamed for not being as open as I was in my academic life– so I sorta “came out” in a big way, on my blog after a particularly difficult semester in grad school (I was adjusting to medication, new therapist, etc.)

    I wish people had been more open about it, and had invited me to places, urged me more to go out and expand my horizons. But at the same time– people don’t know you need help unless you ask for it. It’s a strange position to find one’s self in, especially during the more depressive moods because you don’t have the energy to ask for help. When talking to friends and family about my mental health issues, I try to normalise it as much as I can. Why SHOULD I be ashamed to see a therapist? Why SHOULD I be ashamed to take medication? Both things help and both things help me become a more functional person. I think normalising it helps reduce the stigma, and also prevents the majority of my loved ones from accidentally (or purposefully– though I hope no one would do it!) invalidating my experiences and feelings.

    I’m glad to see you feel similarly and I am in solidarity with you!
    Lots of warm and positive vibes,

    1. says: Anne

      You say it so well – yes it’s a difficult situations, but your personality doesn’t disappear, and it really helps when the people around you let helps you feel as normal as possible – as in there’s still a lot of everyday things you can do, including having fun with friends.
      I hope as it gets more acceptable to talk about mental health, more people without will learn about it, and learn to understand and respect your experiences with mental illness.
      Bear hugs xx