So What Do I Say To You

smile to hideHere is a chart from Health on ten things to say to someone with depression. They said it far better than I but the last column is my addition to the conversation. There is rarely an explanation for why things don’t work, so I thought it would be helpful to understand that things said in what is thought to be kindness can sometimes be hurtful.

I am here for you Table Cell What to say: 
You’re not alone in this.
What NOT to say: 
There’s always someone worse off than you are.
Why Not: Makes us feel even more worthless.
You matter Table Cell What to say: 
You are important to me.
What NOT to say: 
No one ever said that life was fair.
Why Not: Accusatory, we know life isn’t; that’s not the point.
Let me help Table Cell What to say: 
Do you want a hug?
What NOT to say: 
Stop feeling sorry for yourself.
Why Not: Accusatory, we aren’t feeling sorry, something is truly wrong
Depression is real Table Cell What to say: 
You are not going crazy.
What NOT to say:
So you’re depressed. Aren’t you always?
Why Not: Passive/aggressive anger displayed on your part
There is hope Table Cell What to say:
We are not on this earth to see through one another, but to see one another through.
What NOT to say:
Try not to be so depressed.
Why Not: You may think it is helpful, but it is like saying to someone with cancer; stop having cancer.
You can survive this Table Cell What to say:
When all this is over, I’ll still be here and so will you.
What NOT to say: 
It’s your own fault.
Why Not: Think about it, how is a disease our fault?
I’ll do my best to understand Table Cell What to say:
I can’t really understand what you are feeling, but I can offer my compassion.
What NOT to say: 
Believe me, I know how you feel. I was depressed once for several days.
Why Not: Do you really? IF so, than say something from the heart about your experience.
You won’t drive me away Table Cell What to say:
I’m not going to leave you or abandon you.
What NOT to say: 
I think your depression is a way of punishing us.
Why Not: It is one of our greatest fears that we are punishing not only ourselves but everyone around us.  Be supportive not pandering.
I care about you Table Cell What to say: 
I love you. (Say this only if you mean it.)
What NOT to say:
Haven’t you grown tired of all this “me, me, me” stuff yet?
Why Not: Because we already feel unlovable, worthless; we need support that we are OK
We’ll get through this together Table Cell What to say:
I’m sorry that you’re in so much pain. I am not going to leave you. I am going to take care of myself, so you don’t need to worry that your pain might hurt me.
What NOT to say: 
Have you tried chamomile tea?
Why Not: No thank you, not right now.  We need support, therapy and meds, if appropriate, and time to work on our issues and heal.

More articles on this blog about spirituality and depression:

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Is a spiritual director working helping moms find God in the everyday. She has been a spiritual director since 1998: worked as a Director of Religious Education for Holy Cross Parish(2000-2005), was Director of Project Rachel, a healing ministry for Post Abortive women(1999-2000). Patty worked a social worker for Catholic Social Services (1988 - 1995) Then studied for spiritual direction at the Dominican Center of Religious Studies, DeWitt Michigan

She is married 20 years and has four children

She has a BS/BA in social work from Aquinas College, CSD Certified Spiritual Director


  1. I think Robin Williams death has made us all more aware of those who deal with depression in our lives. This was very helpful!

  2. Thank you Liz. It is a very important subject, one I hope will not go away after we, as a nation/world, have finished mourning his death. Enteral rest grant onto him.

  3. Liv

    This is a really wonderful post and extremely helpful! I love how this chart presents everything in an understandable way!!!

  4. Thank you Liz. I always stop by to visit the blogs that visited me, and so I did the same with yours.

    So creative! It is clear you have taken whatever lemons you have been given in life and made lemonade. I am a sucker for some sparkle!!!

  5. What a great post, and I loved the addition of your thoughts on WHY these things are inappropriate to say to someone experiencing depression.

  6. Keiko, thank you so much. Visited your site, I will be coming back!

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