Do This, Not That: What to Say or Do with Someone Who Has Depression

Do This Not That: What to Do and Say with Someone Who Has Depression

Unless you’re a therapist or a psychiatrist, depression is a confusing and fragile zone for anyone when it’s outside of themselves.

When a family member or a friend is unquestionably depressed, we can play a major role in their path to healing. The closer you are to that person, the greater your influence will be.

Having said that, there are a few things that are done with a depressed individual, things that aren’t necessarily the best route to take.

In fact, they can even have a severely negative effect depending on the person and situation.

1. Don’t say cliché positive reinforcements.

It would make sense to counter a depressed person’s negative words with overly positive words, but it doesn’t do much.

The thing about depression is, is that the person is currently in a state of mind in which they are convinced what they think and say is fact. It’s not, but they don’t believe that.

Yes, the goal is for them to eventually reverse this perspective, but it’s not productive to try to convince them now. And the more cliché it is, the more it may just infuriate them.

Instead, keep conversations on a different subject. If they start to go off on a negativity rant, distract them with a different topic rather than aggressively try to rebuttal their words.

You’re there to be a friend. Sometimes, the better route can be to even just be silent and provide physical comfort.

2. Don’t tell them what to do.

Right now, the depressed person is excessively stubborn. Even the most accommodating will suddenly develop a rebellious instinct. Even if you have all the answers to all their problems, they’re not going to listen.

In fact, they will only want to do the opposite, beyond even their own logic. This is one of the most dangerous symptoms of depression. They can’t control it. The more overbearing you are, the worse it’ll become.

Instead, reinforce them when they make a good choice. When they start to figure something out on their own, discreetly encourage them to keep going. A depressed person needs support, not correction.

3. Don’t push them towards something.

Even if it’s a good thing and it’s something that would help them, keep your hands off.

As said before, they will be stubborn. Make suggestions and offer ideas, by all means, but when you notice resistance, step back.

Instead, remain in the present with them. Do not bring up the future, or the past for that matter. Help them remain focused on the present.

4. Don’t try to be Dr. Phil.

That’s the therapist’s job, anyway. More than likely, a depressed friend didn’t come to you for unfathomable wisdom; they came to you for a listening ear and a loving hug. Don’t offer advice until it’s undoubtedly asked for.

Instead, help them have fun! Be the person who can lift their spirits by taking them on adventures and doing fun things together. Actions speak louder than words. Show them how to get better.

5. Don’t tell them what they can do better.

For a depressed person, criticism is toxic.

They already feel horrible about themselves without anyone’s help, and even if the critique is made out of love and to make them a better person, it will only make that feeling worse.

Sugarcoating it by saying they can “do it better” as opposed to saying they’re doing it wrong, may not change the effect.

Instead, celebrate what they’re already good at. Give praises and encouragement. Redirect their own criticism to positive qualities. When they’re on the road to healing and are in a better mental place, you can begin to offer helpful critique.


Even if you have experienced depression yourself, it can be hard to forget about these points when you’re on the other side.

Just remember that the most important thing for you to do is to be a friend, be present, and be loving. Honestly, that’s all they need.

Image: iStock

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