20 Things Not To Say To People With Depression

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Whether you believe these are true/helpful or not, they are not helpful statements in response to someone struggling with depression (even if some of the statements include helpful suggestions for some!) They lead to stigma, they can unintentionally blame the person for suffering, they display a lack of understanding and empathy, and they focus on fixing instead of holding space for someone’s experience. They are invalidating and focused on platitudes. Avoid comments like these:

“Just be positive.”
“Don’t be negative.”
“Have you tried cutting dairy?”
“Depression is a choice.”
“You just need to heal your gut.”
“You should exercise more.”
“Try tanning!”
“You’re manifesting what you focus on.”
“Using meds is a crutch.”
“You need to pray more.”
“You should be able to deal with this on your own.”
“Happiness is a choice!”
“You have such a good life, why are you depressed?”
“Suicidal thoughts are selfish.”
“You need to get out of the house more.”
“I cut gluten and it healed my depression, you should too!”
“Stop being a victim.”
“Have more faith.”
“Change your life circumstances and you’ll fix your depression (leave job, get married, have a child, etc).”
“Therapy is for crazy people.”

Again, if something here was helpful for you, that doesn’t mean it’s helpful for someone else. We risk shaming folks who are dealing with a chronic and debilitating mental illness that is NOT A CHOICE. We also risk perpetuating the stigma of mental illness as being a choice when we focus on lifestyle fixes alone. That’s not to say some of these may be useful, but perhaps it is time to add more validation and allow people to struggle instead of always trying to remove discomfort. People need permission to feel. They need validation. They need nonjudgmental safe relationships. ➡️ What would you add to the list??

(Side note: Of course we all say the wrong things sometimes. We all blow it. But if we can’t discuss education and spread empathy for mental illness, we will never improve our support. Here’s to knowing better and doing better!)

Therapy and tacos for all,

T. Roe