What not to say to a depressed teenager

By ‘depressed’, I’m generalising having a mental health disorder- It made my header more convenient ūüėČ
It’s just a phase/hormones
Yes, most people get pretty moody, and have tantrums… It’s like being 3 again. But to be factual, over 50% mental health illnesses start BEFORE the age of 16. Get it out in the open and seek help- “hormones” do not cause you to feel so low that you want to die.

Just “attention seeking”.
Specifically addressing self harm here, if you would go to the lengths of hurting yourself to “get attention” I think it’s easy to say that maybe this person DOES need attention! They’re crying out for help, they might want you to see, so you know they’re not alright.

Get over it.
Oh, I’m very sorry – I’ll just automatically get better, you know, the same way that people get better from physical illness just by clicking their fingers!!
Most of the time there isn’t an easy way out. It takes time, sometimes therapy or medication, in worst case scenarios, hospitalisation. Never underestimate how hard it is for somebody to recover, even if you have done it yourself. Everybody is different.

But… You have nothing to be sad about!
Mental illness doesn’t work like that. Sometimes it is affected by environment- bullying, trauma etc, but it can sometimes just…¬†Happen. It’s to do with the chemicals in our brains becoming unbalanced, and that’s nobody’s fault. You can have a strong family with a stable home, a bunch of friends and a good lifestyle but still become ill.

That happened to me, but I didn’t break down.
Again, no one person is the same. Imagine two friends who have both experienced a parental divorce in their life; you can’t expect them both to have dealt with it the same. Some will be okay with it, if a little upset, but others will fall apart- their family could have been the base of their lives.

There are people much worse off than you. Be thankful for what you have.
Please just¬†don’t¬†say this- sure, it’s true, but there’s always going to be somebody who’s worse off(and God bless that one person who¬†is the worst-off person in the world.), but being depressed/low does not mean you do not appreciate the good things in life. Sometimes, your mind just gets very used to cancelling out the good things and focusing on all the little negatives, and it has no space to consider anything “okay” in life. Of course people will have it worse, but that never makes somebody’s problems¬†too insignificant.

Well, everyone gets depressed sometimes!
Oh yeah, that’s¬†really helpful. Great to know that my problems are supposedly “normal” and I should just learn to live with them. Depression is an¬†illness¬†not a feeling.

You don’t¬†look depressed.
What do you expect? Often, people get into a habit of wearing a mask(metaphorically), to hide how they are feeling inside. They can seem like the most bright and bubbly person you know, but still be struggling. It’s not always easy to pick them apart from the rest.

You’re making me feel depressed too.
Woop woop, glad to know that I’m not¬†only¬†bad for myself, but for other people too! It really isn’t great to hear that when you’re trying so hard to confide into another. Sometimes it’s best just to listen, if you really don’t know what to say. Mental illness can’t be “caught”.

and finally, a little list of things you can say to anybody, just to make the world a little brighter…

. I hope you have a good day today.
. I understand things aren’t great at the moment, let me know if there’s ever anything I can do.
. I might not be able to relate with you, but I will try and listen.
. *smile*
. Would you like to do something tonight/sometime soon?
. *Text them first*
. You are radical, my friend (Highly recommended by me)
. How have you been recently?
. I’ll always try my best to be around for you.
. This is my number- call me any time. I mean any time.
. It’s okay, take as much time as you need. I’d rather see you back at your full well-being after time than seeing you ‘just about coping’ everyday. (This is very helpful to hear from people such as teachers/school and employers.)
. I know that this is the best you can do at the moment and that’s perfect for me.
. Don’t worry about that, you can always repeat things like exams and schooling. You can’t replace time you have lost to depression. (This was so helpful for me to hear about my schooling, as I was terrified of getting behind on work while in hospital.)
. I believe that things are gonna work out for you.

Stay cool.



5 thoughts on “What not to say to a depressed teenager

  1. Hi,

    I think a lot of the things you have put in your not to say apply to most people who are experiencing depression. I also think that a lot of your suggestions for what to say apply to most people of any age experiencing depression. That said, I think that the teenage years are unique in that there are major brain modifications going on. Hormones can make you feel depressed, they can make you feel a lot of things oxytosin makes you feel love for example. Changes in hormone levels can have an adverse effect on mood. However, blaming hormones rather misses the point and can certainly seam very dismissive. Being there is very important, for many people experiencing depression.


    • I agree, as I wrote it I understood that it could apply to any age but as a teen, these are the things that I have found unhelpful. The point I am trying to make about teenagers with mental health illnesses is that it is not just the changes going on in our bodies, and it should not be overlooked. I completely agree about the changes in our bodies amplifying the way we can feel/ our stress levels etc.


      • Thank you for replying. I don’t think that changes in the body can account for everything that people feel. I also do not think that it should be discounted. There are many people, myself included who had a terrible time during their teenage years. It never was that golden place of Disney films. It was dark, brooding, confusing and depressing.

        I have the advantage of age and perspective. I’m not attempting to sound patronizing but I suppose I do. I can only share. Every struggle survived, every battle won, every pain experienced works towards a self confidence that we have been here before and survived. Not only survived but thrived.

        Without the dark, we can never experience the joy of seeing the light again. Every experience wonderful and tragic, should be transitory. Strangely the worst times in my life is when there has been an absence of feeling.

        The main problem with depression is that you only see the dark, the bad, the hurtful and the scary. The problem with depression is that you forget the beautiful, the wonderful, the compassionate and the joyful.

        I recall people’s cruelty sometimes inadvertent, sometimes out of ignorance and sometimes deliberately but I also recall people’s compassion. If I accept that I am human and make mistakes then I have to accept that others are human as well. If I want to be accepted then I need to accept.


  2. Reblogged this on Spilt Milk and commented:
    This young woman has a pretty good handle on the issues of mental health. I would add that her advice goes beyond teens. Don’t say this stuff to anyone with a mental health issue. Also Suicide Prevention Day is Sept. 10. Learn everything you can about how to help.


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