10 Things Not to Say to a Mother Fighting Depression


I have friends and family who want to help me manage my depression. They just don’t know how — that’s not their fault. So I came up with a list of 10 things not to say to a mother fighting depression. I hope it helps those close to us as well as other people who aren’t educated about depression.

10. “Go outside for a walk.”

Sunshine and fresh air help me sometimes when I am depressed, but I get tired of people suggesting outdoors activities as if I never thought of them. I do have a friend who shared with me how exercise and healthy eating made a difference in her husband’s depression. I appreciated the careful, loving way she attempted to help me from experience.

9. “You’re lazy.”

This is a tough one for me. My mom and I recently figured out I struggled with depression as a kid, but I just thought I was lazy. I have friends and family members who equate my depression with laziness. I get it. If a person hardly moves and stays in bed, it can seem pretty lazy. But please understand that as a mother fighting depression, I’m not choosing not to do things. When I am depressed, sometimes I’m simply unable to do anything.

8. “Oh, my friend had that. She did XYZ to get rid of it.”

When I am not in the midst of a major depressive episode, I appreciate hearing stories about others who found helpful ways to alleviate their pain in depression. But if I am really struggling, please don’t blow me off with a pat answer to my struggle. It’s real. It’s painful. I need understanding and validation.

7. “Your kids shouldn’t have to go through this (you’re a bad mom).”

This is the hardest part of depression and motherhood. Kids absolutely should not have to go through this. A mother fighting depression shouldn’t have to either. Trust me, guilt is a big part of the cycle of depression, especially when it comes to kids. Find ways to encourage us and point out concrete examples of our ability to mother well. Our kids are our biggest motivators to tackle depression.

6. “Snap out of it.”

A lot of people can’t snap out of depression. It is an illness. Therapy, medication, exercise, eating right and other things help, and when they do, it’s great! But it’s not a question of a person snapping out of it. To say that is just mean.

5. “I’d be depressed but I don’t have time.”

Ah, the active mom who can’t understand how another mom has the time to be depressed. Comments like this hurt. Moms who fight depression, again, do not choose the illness. Please know, we really want to be able to do more, and there are times when we are jealous of you and all that you accomplish. Depressed moms don’t make time to be sad. They fight to be well.

4. “Pray harder.”

Ouch. If only our faith was stronger, we would not be depressed. God has blessed us with so much, isn’t it disrespectful not to be joyful? The joy of the Lord is our strength, right? If you have a friend who is depressed, absolutely pray for them. Gently encourage them to pray and seek God and read scripture. But please don’t make their illness a spiritual deficit. Trust me, if they are people of faith, they are praying like hell.

3. “Just take an antidepressant.”

Antidepressants help a lot of people who struggle with depression. I am thankful they make a difference in my battle. But our methods of treatment are not really your business. If your friend had cancer, would you be inclined to advise her the best route to recovery?

2. “If you tried harder, you’d feel better.”

People who struggle with depression want to feel better. As a mother fighting depression, I try.

1. “How can you be depressed when you have so many good things in your life?”

Whether or not one’s depression is situational or clinical, it is not a decision a person makes. “I think I’ll be depressed today.” Um, no. Please don’t say something condescending. But again gently, tactfully, point out the good things in our lives. Chances are, we need to hear about them.

Still Life 5 (1) My book, “Still Life, A Memoir of Living Fully with Depression”  tells my story about depression and the struggles my family and I deal with as we all fight for health.

If you battle depression and are a mom, I’d love your feedback. Do you agree, disagree? What would you add or omit to this list?

Follow Gillian’s journey on Facebook.

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Getty image by Taws13


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