Words kill, words give life; They’re either poison or fruit – you choose. Proverbs 18:21 The Message
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. Many have asked about what not to say to someone with depression.
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.
If you are wondering what is helpful to say TO someone struggling with depression, I’ve shared 13 things to say to someone struggling with depression or anxiety: What To Say to Someone Who Is Depressed.
What not to say to someone with depression
Here are a few things that you should NOT to say to a depressed person or someone struggling with anxiety or some other mental illness:
1.) It’s all in your head.
2.) Snap out of it.
3.) This too shall pass.
4.) What doesn’t kill you will make you stronger.
5.) You can always find someone worse off than you.
6.) 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.
Your goal when speaking to someone with depression is to encourage them. To lift them up.
What can you say to speak life over a depressed one?
For a free resource that will provide more help when you have a loved one or friend experiencing depression, visit how to help a depressed loved one.
Because of Him, #HopePrevails!
Helpful Resources for Depression
- “Hope Prevails: Insights from a Doctor’s Personal Journey Through Depression” by Dr. Michelle Bengtson, winner of the Christian Literary Award Reader’s Choice Award
- “Hope Prevails Bible Study” by Dr. Michelle Bengtson, winner of the Christian Literary Award Reader’s Choice Award
- Yes, Christians Get Depressed! There is Hope!
- This Thing Called Depression: Signs and Symptoms
- 10 Verses of Hope for When You are Down or Depressed
- 15 Ways to Help a Depressed Husband or Wife
- Dear Patient, Now I Understand
- 5 Promises from God to the Patient I Didn’t Meet
- Recommended reading on depression
If you are on social media, particularly Facebook, you may want to join the #HopePrevails Community where we offer ongoing support.
(If you have a question you’d like Dr. B to answer, contact her here now. Your name and identity will be kept confidential.)
Thanks for sharing both what to and what not to say to someone who is depressed. This was also very helpful. Again, thanks for stopping by and sharing on Throwback Thursday. Merry Christmas.
Precious Dr. Michelle,
What a gift ? you are! You discover the most significant aspects, in major life issues!
In your book, “HOPE PREVAILS,” your insight is far beyond the norm! Your inclusion of the spiritual factor is essential for life success.
Thank you, also, for writing about what NOT to say when others are struggling!
Thank you, Glenda. May it be helpful in dark places. Because of Him, #HopePrevails!
Oh my, I just can’t imagine saying these things to someone that is already depressed. Thank you for sharing these and I pray I will always have the right words to share full of love and compassion. Your prescriptions are so helpful and always give me a God perspective on any given situation. Thank you for your ministry, your love and compassion for those suffering depression.
Karen, sadly, these come from actual comments made to me and some of my patients going through depression. I truly don’t think people realize the impact of their words sometimes. But I’m hopeful that sharing of my own experiences will help.
Michelle, thank you so much for this post. Depression is real and people don’t need to be shamed because of it. May we be sensitive to how our words can affect others. May our words heal rather than hurt or tear down. Blessings to you! I’m your neighbor this week at #GraceFullTuesday.
Thanks Gayl, yes, depression is real and I’ve been there. I know what people have said that hurt or hindered me, and what helped or encouraged me. If sharing from my experience will help others, then I’m blessed to do so. Hope Prevails!
Such a great reminders for when you’re talking to someone with depression or in any hard situation really! Praying for endurance for you!
Thanks Amy. Sometimes we just need some encouragement about what helps, or what doesn’t, especially if we haven’t gone through something ourselves. Hope Prevails!
People’s words and careless remarks can cut to the quick. How helpful to have a list of what not to say.
You’re right. Sometimes we speak to fill a silence or sometimes we think we’re helping when we don’t really understand. I’ve heard many a hurtful comment when I was in the valley, but I’m so grateful for those who stood beside me in my pain. I suspect you’re one who does that for her friends.
Speaking life and hope is so important, but it can be hard to do it in a way that doesn’t seem condescending. (At least for me) I try to show love, to meet them where they are and let them know they’re not alone.
You’re so right. But clearly, your heart is in a place of wanting to help, and I think starting off from that posture makes all the difference, even when we might not have the perfect words to ease another’s pain. Bless you!
Thanks for your wisdom here. We want to empathize with the person and really listen to them. Not say something to make them feel worse. Those trite saying help us more than the person we are saying them to. They ease our conscious, but not the conscious of the other person.
Thank you. It can be so hard sometimes to know what to say to someone who is hurting, but my heart is to share from my experience in hopes of helping others. Thanks for your encouragement. Blessings to you.
So very true! Thanks for sharing at the friday features link up!
Amy, thanks so much for stopping by. I hope the post in some way encourages or equips those who read it.
Michelle, your wisdom is always helpful. This is particularly good–words can speak life or death, can’t they?
Thanks so much for joining the Grace at Home party at Imparting Grace. I’m featuring you this week!
Thank you Richella! It’s always my heart to try to encourage and stand on truth.