A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

14 Perfectly Worded Texts to Send Someone with Depression

Updated: Nov. 11, 2023

Not sure what to say when someone is depressed? These little texts can make a big impact.

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Texts are an excellent way to reach out

One in three people in the United States will struggle with depression at some point during their life, and one in eight will have a major depressive episode. It can be hard to know what to say when someone is depressed, so it’s a good idea to have some strategies in place now to support loved ones during a dark time.

“Texting is an easy way to show someone you are thinking about them and you care,” says Fran Walfish, PsyD, a relationship therapist in Beverly Hills. “The very nature of texting makes it ideal because they don’t have to feel pressure to answer in the moment if they’re not feeling up to it, like they would if you called or asked them in person.”

While a text doesn’t replace in-person interactions or phone calls, notes Walfish, they can be one great tool to provide support.

What you shouldn’t say to someone living with depression

When texting or talking with someone about depression or any mental illness, it’s important to follow a few etiquette rules and avoid some common pitfalls, says psychiatrist and neuroscientist Dave Rabin, MD, PhD, co-founder of Apollo Neuroscience. Even folks who are trying to be kind and loving can easily make these mistakes:

  • Offering unsolicited advice. (“Have you tried yoga?”)
  • Minimizing their feelings. (“Everyone feels down sometimes—it’s not a big deal.”)
  • Being forcefully positive. (“Every cloud has a silver lining! Count your blessings!”)

In fact, some of the “polite” ways you’re probably talking about mental health are actually rude, and that’s not limited to comments about depression.

What to say when someone is depressed

“Depending on their personality, you could text something funny, like a meme about depression, an uplifting quote or a ‘thinking of you’ message,” Walfish says. “Even a simple ‘Hey, just wanted to let you know I love you! How are you feeling today?’ is always great.”

Whatever you choose, focus on listening to their experience, validating their feelings and providing support. The short texts below, provided by Dr. Rabin and Walfish, can open up the lines of communication and let a person living with depression know they aren’t alone.

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“Hey, friend! Just thinking about you and wanted to check in. How are you doing?”

One of the most powerful ways to help someone with depression is simply letting them know that you haven’t forgotten about them. “This simple message expresses concern and opens the door to further conversation if they’re feeling up for it,” says Walfish. This is something good friends do.

Pitfalls to avoid: Don’t press for information, says Walfish. Instead, keep your interaction low-pressure. There’s a solid chance that they will reply with something like “Fine” or “Good,” and that’s OK. You can ask one follow-up question, but avoid texting back comments that can come across as accusatory, like: “Are you sure?” or “I don’t believe you.”

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“I want you to know that I’m here for you and I want to help.”

One big issue that many people with mental illness struggle with is feeling like they’re a burden to their loved ones, Dr. Rabin says. This short-and-sweet text offering your support is a good thing to say when someone is depressed because it lets them know that helping isn’t a burden but something you want to do.

Pitfalls to avoid: Skip any version of “Let me know how I can help.” This is one of the top mistakes people make when speaking to people with a chronic illness. It puts the burden of thinking of something back on them, and it can feel like too much. Instead, have a couple options ready to offer—perhaps giving them a ride somewhere, bringing them a treat or watching a show online together.

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“Depression sucks! And it’s OK to feel how you do—your feelings are valid and understandable.”

Validating someone else’s feelings and experiences is one of the most underrated things you can do to help someone with depression, Walfish says. “People may worry that they are going crazy,” she explains, “and letting them know what they are experiencing is understandable is powerful.”

Pitfalls to avoid: Don’t say “I know exactly how you feel” or tell them how they are feeling. Instead, ask them open-ended questions and let them tell you how they’re feeling. For example, let’s say they tell you something like: “I’m feeling so sad, and I’m worried I’ll never get out of this.” Reflect it back to them using their words, which is one of the therapist secrets that pro counselors use. For instance, “I hear you saying that you’re worried this will never end and you’ll be stuck in this sad place forever.” You’re showing them that you’re listening and sympathizing with them, which will help them feel more comfortable to continue opening up about their experience.

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“Anytime you feel like talking, I feel like listening.”

Simply offering a nonjudgmental listening ear can provide a surprising amount of relief to people with depression, Dr. Rabin says. People can benefit from processing their feelings verbally, and they just need you to listen in a loving way.

Pitfalls to avoid: Don’t try to be their therapist, Dr. Rabin says. You don’t need to provide advice, and this isn’t the time to share your own experiences (unless they ask). Focus on being an attentive listener by making affirming noises and comments and having open body language if you’re speaking in person. And if you do make a mistake? It’s not the end of the world—here’s how to apologize.

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“Want to go for a walk or meet up for coffee?”

It’s a good idea to offer to meet up, and even better when they take you up on it. When you spend time together, you can reinforce your love and concern while giving them an opportunity to talk about their depression if they’d like or to talk about something else if they’d prefer to take their mind off it, Walfish says. Give them one or two low-stakes options to meet up (think: something familiar and close to home, like meeting up at a park or grabbing dessert), and then let them choose. Don’t overwhelm them with choices—two is plenty—as many people with depression suffer from “decision fatigue,” or the inability to make even seemingly simple decisions.

Pitfalls to avoid: Keep the emphasis on your relationship and away from “saving” them. There’s a big difference between “If you go for a walk every day, it will help your depression” (which is true but is unsolicited advice and therefore unlikely to be helpful) and “I’d love to go for a walk with you” (which focuses on your relationship and desire to be with them). Depending on the situation and the person, you may want to learn how to set boundaries so you don’t end up feeling burned out.

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“Just want to let you know I think you’re pretty great, and I’m glad we’re friends/family!”

People who are living with depression are often harshly self-critical, and reminding them what you love about them is powerful, Dr. Rabin says. You don’t have to get overly effusive, and that may actually get their guard up, so stick to just one compliment.

Pitfalls to avoid: Don’t get sucked into an argument. If they reply, “I’m really not great at all,” don’t respond with: “Well, I think you are!” Instead, answer with an invitation: “It sounds like you’re feeling really down about yourself right now. Want to talk about it?”

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“You’re not alone—I’m with you in spirit!”

Feeling alone and isolated is both a symptom and cause of depression, creating a vicious cycle of loneliness and mental illness,” Dr. Rabin says. This text can change that narrative. And if you add in a picture of the two of you together, the combo will likely bring a smile to their face.

Pitfalls to avoid: Be sure to back up your words with actions. If you don’t live nearby, check in with them regularly via phone, video chat and/or text. If you are close, stop by for a visit or invite them to do something. Simply saying “You’re not alone” isn’t going to help if they really are all alone.

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“How are you feeling today?”

Depression can be constant, but it often waxes and wanes in severity. And it can be hard to tell how bad someone is feeling at that moment, as many sufferers have gotten good at hiding or masking their sadness, Walfish notes. Sending this text asking them a direct question shows that you are interested in not just how they are doing overall but how they are feeling right then.

Pitfalls to avoid: Don’t fill in their feelings for them or imply any judgment of those feelings. For instance, skip anything like: “I haven’t heard from you for a while, so I’m guessing you’re feeling pretty sad. But I want you to be happy!” Saying this risks getting it wrong and hurting their feelings or making them feel like their emotions are “wrong.”

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“Can I call you tomorrow and check in?”

Let your loved one know that you’re not just checking in once—you plan to check in regularly with them in the future. This gives them something to look forward to and relieves them of the burden of asking for more care, Dr. Rabin says. But it still leaves them in control with a way out if they don’t feel like chatting.

Pitfalls to avoid: Don’t take it personally if they say no. You aren’t responsible for them or their feelings, and they may not want you (or anyone) to check up on them. That can sting, but recognize it’s really not about you, Dr. Rabin says.

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“I may not understand what you’re going through, but I want to be here for you.”

Showing sympathy and empathy are two of the fundamental ways we relate to other people. Acknowledging that you don’t have the same lived experiences that they do but care about what they are experiencing is a kind way to open a discussion. Everyone struggles with something, explains Dr. Rabin, and can relate on a basic level while still noting the uniqueness of that person’s experience. This also works well in a handwritten note that accompanies a small gift, like a flower delivery.

Pitfalls to avoid: Don’t say “I know what you’re going through.” The truth is, you don’t. Even if you have had or currently have depression, your experience will not be the same as your loved one’s, and making assumptions about their feelings based on your own can feel hurtful and invalidating, Dr. Rabin says.

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“I’m so sorry you are hurting, my friend.”

This simple text is great for people who don’t know what to say but want to say something, Walfish says. Acknowledging their suffering validates their feelings, and expressing your sorrow that they are hurting lets them know they are seen and heard.

Pitfalls to avoid: Don’t make it about you. That means you shouldn’t say anything like: “I hate to see you hurting” or “It hurts me when you hurt.” Keep the focus on them, advises Walfish, and don’t make them responsible for your feelings.

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“Saw this and thought you might get a kick out of it.”

The internet is full of silly GIFs, funny memes, dark humor and strength quotes. “If you see something that your loved one would enjoy, take a minute and text it to them—no words necessary,” Walfish says. They’ll know you’re thinking of them and will get a chuckle or little boost of positive energy in their day.

Pitfalls to avoid: Know your loved one and their sense of humor before sending anything risqué or overly dark. Keep quotes appropriate to their personality and situation, and also avoid sending things that feel too general or minimize their feelings.

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“I imagine today may be tough. How are you feeling?”

Some people have generalized depression that persists over a long time, but others may go through a depressive episode triggered by an event—like the death of a child or a painful anniversary, Walfish says. Remembering the tough day and reaching out to offer extra love and support shows you care and are mindful of what they’re going through. And, depending on the situation, this text can offer comfort.

Pitfalls to avoid: Don’t assume you know how they feel about it. They may indeed be feeling upset, but they may also feel calm or resolute. It’s best to just ask them how they feel and then reflect that back to them.

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“I don’t know what to say except I love you.”

There are times when someone else’s feelings may feel so immense or out of your own experience that you don’t have any idea what to say. “It’s OK to be honest and admit that,” Dr. Rabin says. “No one expects you to have all the answers. And saying anything is usually better than saying nothing.”

Pitfalls to avoid: People who don’t know what to say when someone is depressed often are tempted to use platitudes like: “Don’t worry, everything happens for a reason,” “The sun will come out tomorrow” or “You’ll get through this.” These sayings can feel trite and minimize their experiences. In fact, some of the “polite” things you may be saying to them and others are not as polite as you think they are.

About the experts

  • Dave Rabin, MD, PhD, is a psychiatrist, neuroscientist and co-founder of Apollo Neuroscience, wearable technology that uses touch therapy to combat stress and promote resilience and recovery. He specializes in the treatment of PTSD, depression, anxiety disorders and substance-use disorders.
  • Fran Walfish, PsyD, is a relationship therapist and author in Beverly Hills.