“The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences.” Proverbs 18:21
Scripture tells us that the words we speak can produce life or death. As a practicing psychologist, I find this to be true with respect to mental illness as well.
The words we speak over our loved ones can build them up or tear them down. Just because we haven’t experienced the same suffering, doesn’t mean that their suffering isn’t real. Yet what we say may communicate just that.
The words we speak can help another ease their suffering, or they can dig a pit just a little deeper. The words of Toby Mac’s song, “Speak Life” ring true. For all of us, some days are wonderful, while others bring so much despair we can hardly imagine. But the words that are spoken over us can magnify our current condition.
You can read about helpful things TO say to someone struggling with depression here, What To Say When A Loved One Is Depressed.
Here are a few things NOT to say to someone struggling with depression, anxiety, or some other mental illness:
-It’s all in your head.
-Snap out of it.
-This too shall pass.
-What doesn’t kill you will make you stronger.
-You can always find someone worse off than you.
-I know how you feel (unless you really do know how they feel, and they know it)
These comments are derogatory to a person suffering from depression, anxiety, or other mental illness. You wouldn’t say these things to someone who has cancer, epilepsy, or paralysis.
By and large, these comments have become cliché in our society, and really reflect a lack of understanding, empathy, and acceptance. But even more importantly, they do not build one another up (“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up” 1 Thessalonians 5:11).
These comments can leave a person with mental illness feeling worthless, unvalidated, and minimized. Such comments communicate that their pain isn’t serious or isn’t important, or that you believe they choose to suffer. People who suffer from depression, anxiety or other mental illnesses already often struggle with self-esteem, guilt, and shame.
What can you say to speak life over a depressed one? If you’re unsure, read my post entitled “What to Say to a Depressed Loved One.”
Because of Him, #HopePrevails!
(If you have a question you’d like Dr. B to answer, contact her here now. Your name and identity will be kept confidential.)