Sometimes well-intentioned comments can do more harm than good.

By Renee Cherry
Updated: March 26, 2019

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Talking to a friend about their depression can be intimidating, but showing your support is worth the discomfort. Educating yourself about their condition, asking them what they need, and then truly listening is a solid start. (See: 5 Ways to Support a Loved One Struggling with Depression)

Concerned about what NOT to say? Short answer: Anything that's critical or judgmental. Unfortunately, well-intentioned comments can end up being both. To avoid slipping up, read this advice on what not to say-along with better options-from women who have experienced depression themselves. (Related: Subtle Signs of Postpartum Depression You Shouldn't Ignore)

"Just cheer up."

"Never say anything along these lines. Rather, say things like 'even though it may feel like it, I promise you are not alone,' or 'I hear you. What can I do to help?' Depression is heavy, it's dark, it's deep, it lingers. It shouldn't be minimized-and when someone is struggling with depression (or anything for that matter) while you're not, it can be hard to relate or imagine. When it's there for you, it's everywhere-and the biggest thing (for me) is the need to not feel alone. Because it's one of the most isolating experiences."-Anna; Richmond, VA

"You are too much for me to handle."

"When I've heard this, it felt like my depression is a problem for other people, which adds more stress because I'm already struggling! Sometimes people try to find solutions like breathing techniques or exercise, and I'd rather someone say, 'Would you like me to listen to you vent? Or would you like me to try to give you any helpful techniques?' That way I know they are trying to hear me instead of shut me up. Listening to someone just talk about what they are going through is big because a lot of the time someone who is depressed has a hard time sharing, thinking they are just dumping their emotions on other people."-Erica; San Diego, CA (Related: Why Is It So Hard to Make Your First Therapy Appointment?​)

"You have nothing to be sad about."

"More than likely the person already knows they may not have a direct reason to be feeling depressed, and someone reminding them may make them feel guilty and make it worse. Instead, just validate how they feel. Tell them that although things suck right now, you are there to help."-Madison; Oregon, OH

"There are people who have it way worse than you."

"While this may very well be true, this statement could apply to anyone. But pain is not a competition. We're not competing for who suffers the most, or who has it the worst. Pain is pain, and while someone may indeed have it worse than you do, that doesn't mean that your suffering (mental or physical) is invalid. Your pain, no matter how big or how small it may be, is worthy of attention."-Stephanie Katrina; Sudbury, ON, Canada (Related: This Study Shows Just How Extreme the Mental Health Problem Is In the U.S.​)

"Why don't you try being more positive?"

"Telling a friend to be more positive when dealing with depression is one of the most irritating comments ever. Trust me when I say we've done absolutely everything to be more positive. It just doesn't work sometimes. Being positive doesn't pull a person out of depression, it changes their perspective on their current situation which is again invalidating the process of depressive episodes."-Mia; Willenhall, UK

"It'll pass."

"If it was easy to snap out of it or feel better, we naturally would, now wouldn't we? So hearing that it's not that bad or everything will be okay tends to have the reverse effect of making us feel better, and rather makes us feel crazy! As someone who suffers from both anxiety and depression, just knowing people are there should I wish to seek help is all I need."-Alida; Brantford, ON, Canada (Related: Why You Should Stop Saying You Have Anxiety If You Really Don't)

"You're overreacting."

"Managing daily life slapped with a diagnosis of bipolar 1 disorder takes work every single day. Oftentimes, my mental illness isn't taken seriously, which I'm sure is mostly due to the fact that I am 'too functional' and can confidently put on a brave face when I'm actually dying inside. Please do not tell me that I am being dramatic. It's time to stop invalidating mental health struggles. Depression is real and, unfortunately, often misunderstood, so remember to be mindful when trying to offer advice or support."-Dani; Virginia Beach, VA

Advice on how to be happier

"Check your own discomfort. Often people are so quick to jump into action to alleviate their friend's sadness because these heavier emotions make people uncomfortable. Don't assume that your friend is looking for solutions when they may really just need empathy. Don't push them to perform happiness for you because it's so hard to watch them hurt."-Kiki; Oakland, CA

Nothing at all

"Saying nothing at all is equally as bad as saying something tone-deaf, such as 'You'll snap out of it.' Either it makes you uncomfortable so you don't want to bring it up, which is selfish, or you're afraid that bringing it up will somehow make it worse. What we really need is simply a friend who will be there and listen."-Erin; Chicago

If you or someone you love is depressed and considering suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

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