When a close friend is depressed, anxious, or otherwise going through a difficult time, all of us want to help. But though our intentions may be pure, finding the right words of support can be tricky—and nobody wants to inadvertently say the wrong thing. The good news, says Nicholette Leanza, LPCC-S, a therapist with LifeStance Health, is that you don’t need to be perfect; you just need to be there. Here, a quick Q&A with Leanza reveals what to say and do to help a friend who’s struggling.
What can you say to someone who’s really going through it?
One of the best things you can do when someone is really struggling is to acknowledge and validate their struggle. Saying things like, “I see that you’re really having a hard time and I’m here for you when you need me” can let the person know that you see their pain and want to be there for them. Anything you can say to help them feel comforted, less alone, and more connected to life is extremely helpful.
What are helpful ways to show support?
There are a few ways you can show your support to someone who may be struggling with depression. You can be there for them when they need to talk or just need some comforting words. You can also show your support by doing things like cooking them a nice meal, getting them a gift to let them know you are thinking of them, or even offering a hug to help reassure them. Being patient with them is another sign of support because many people who struggle with depression wrestle with a lack of motivation to do things that usually wouldn’t be so difficult for them to do. Let them know that you understand how hard some things may be for them and to remind them to be patient and compassionate with themselves.
What are some well-meaning phrases that don’t have their intended effect?
I think that loved ones often mean well in their comments but don’t realize how some of the comments may invalidate the person’s struggle with depression. Comments like “You just need to get out and do something, like go for a walk,” or “You’re strong, you’ll get through this,” may feel helpful, but the message insinuates that depression is something simple to just get over—which can make the person feel worse [because] they just can’t get over it.
If you’re the one who needs support, don’t miss Leanza’s advice on asking for help when you’re feeling blue.