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.)