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James Donaldson on Mental Health – What to Say to a Friend With Depression When You’re at a Loss for Words

depressionand what to sayYou’ve probably heard it before; there are good and bad things to say to someone with depression. However, the bad seems to be too easy, while the good leaves you at a loss for words. I mean, what do you say to comfort someone who doesn’t even have control of their own mind?

In reality, there is no perfect thing you can say to make everything better. These are just the things that come to mind as someone who has struggled.

1. “I wish I could make this better for you.”

I don’t know why I love this one so much. A friend said this to me a couple years ago after some tough times in my life and it hit me like a ton of bricks. It made me realize someone was there for me and they would love and help me through the pain. To this day, this is still the most comforting thing I have ever heard. When times get rough and I think about my friends, this is always the moment that comes to my mind. It stuck out amongst a sea of people saying, “it will get better.”

This doesn’t even have to just be for a depressed friend. These words are always what I want to hear on bad days. It brings me comfort to know that no matter how bad one day is, I have the power. I have time. The bad day can only carry out its reign of terror until 11:59 p.m. Then, it will be forever gone and I will have survived. The next day is a blank canvas, and that is everything.

3. “You don’t have to say anything. I’m just going to sit here with you.”

There is such a push on people with mental illness to just talk about it. Sometimes, talking about it is the last thing I want to do. Sometimes, I don’t want to acknowledge it. I just want to hold on for dear life and keep going. Sit with me. Ride out the storm by my side.

4. “You have emotions of steel and I respect that.”

A friend said this to me after I had just made a joke about how weak I am. Of course, I had meant it as a joke regarding my physical strength (I’m basically a string bean with legs), but he caught me by surprise and said something I had never even thought before. I had always hated depression because I felt it made me weak, but he thought it made me strong. It changed the way I saw myself. I’m not weak because I have issues. I’m strong because I get up every day despite them.

5. “Your feelings are valid.”

Most of the time, I feel like a “crazy” person. I get upset about weird things, I am exhausted and there are days when I need tons of reassurance. By you validating my feelings, you are telling me I am not out of my mind. You give me the peace of understanding my feelings without being guilty or freaked out.

Everyone wants to be told they have done a good job. It’s human nature. We all want to be praised. It’s funny, though; for me at least, the times I need praise the most happen to be the times when it seems like I’m doing the least. The times when my grades suck and hygiene has gone out the window are the times when I’m fighting the hardest to get out of bed. Acknowledging it makes all the difference.

Good Health is Mental Health

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