Words to never say to someone struggling with depression

It can be hard trying to find the right words to help comfort someone in their time of need. Seeking out words that will offer reassurance and consolation can be rather challenging for some individuals. As a result, people can end up saying things that might not be helpful to the situation at hand. They don’t do it out of ill will or malice but from a lack of awareness of how to properly and effectively communicate their thoughts and feelings. When dealing with a subject like depression, this unawareness can be put on full display. If you are not a licensed psychologist or therapist, talking to someone who is suffering from depression can be complicated. You want to say things that will make them feel better, but at the same time, you don’t want to sound condescending. You want to empathize with them, but you don’t know what it’s like to be in their shoes. Facing these conflicting emotions can lead a person to say things they should never say to a person who is depressed, things that can make a situation that was supposed to be uplifting and encouraging turn awkward and uncomfortable. It’s not a position in which anyone would want to find themselves in, but it is one that’s easy to get out of if you know what words, terms and phrases to avoid.

VeryWellmind lists out what you should never say, or even think about saying, to someone with depression. “Cheer up”, “It could be worse”, and “but you don’t look depressed” are only a few examples of phrases that should never be said. 

Cheer Up

Telling a depressed person to “cheer up”as though they’ve just lost a football game isn’t only insensitive but also, incredibly dismissive. You’re implying that they are making a choice to be depressed and that they need to get over it and just “become” happy.

It Could Be Worse

By telling someone they could be in worse conditions, is you minimizing the situation that they are currently facing by comparing it to more dire situations other people may be facing. Trying to compare and contrast issues instead of focusing on what a person is going through at that moment comes across as uncaring and callous.

But You Don’t Look Depressed

How someone looks on the outside does not reflect that person’s mental or emotional state. Saying that they don’t “look” like they are suffering can be very embarrassing for a depressed person. You’ve basically said you don’t believe them because they don’t fit the stereotypical look of a depressed person that you’ve made up in your mind.

Dr. Jill Lee-Barber from the Student Health Clinic offers more insight and helpful tips.

“Don’t tell someone to just get over it, like the flu you need assistance and resources in order to heal properly. Tell the person you care about them and that this won’t last forever.”

The Counseling Center at Georgia State is free for students and has walk-in appointments daily. If students need to speak with a crisis counselor after hours, they can call 404-413-1640 and follow the prompts to reach the counselor on-call.