4 Epic Fails You Say to a Person Suffering from Depression

Imani Lynn Wisdom
5 min readMar 22, 2021


Face it. Life’s a bitch.

I know using such strong language shouldn’t necessarily prove a point. But, as a Black woman who suffers from depression and anxiety, as well as millions in this country, we’re tired of hearing the ignorance coming from family and friends or coworkers.

It’s old. I mean, really, really old.

It’s hard enough when you’re carrying the weight of depression on your shoulders and forced to smile on days when the bed is the haven. It’s a sad preference but a safe one to shield from the uncertainty of what the world has to offer.

Probably right now, someone’s reading this and thinking, “All a person needs is motivation — that’s it!”

If only it’s that simple.

According to NIMH (National Institute of Mental Health), Depression (major depressive disorder or clinical depression) is a common but serious mood disorder. It causes severe symptoms that affect how you feel, think, and handle daily activities, such as sleeping, eating, or working.

There are varying types of depression. Some are mild compared to some with a form of psychosis. The symptoms, however, also vary, such as hopelessness, insomnia, worthlessness, guilt, a loss of interest in everyday activities, and most cases, thoughts or attempts of suicide.

So, lacking motivation is a loaded term because no one can be certain of another person’s diagnoses, background, or why their sorrows hurt so bad.

What may work for you in your quest to overcome the mental illness may not work for others.

And I wish there are cure-alls to rid this mood disorder: Never to feel the ails of murkiness lying dormant in your soul. Or to finally wake up without feeling anxious or fearful of what’s to come. Or to be able to breathe again and life coursing through the veins as you a step for new beginnings.

With the proper guidance from a mental health professional, it’s possible.

In the meantime, here are four epic fails you shouldn’t say to anyone suffering from depression.

“You need to snap out it.”

I can hear the amen corner loud and clear, clapping and shouting yes in agreement as I write this.

This phrase gets said too often without a thought or care behind the vague words.

And, yes, vague.

What does it mean to snap out it anyway?

Mental illness is not hypnosis.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines conditions that affect a person’s thinking, feeling, mood, or behavior, such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia. Such conditions may be occasional or long-lasting (chronic) and affect someone’s ability to relate to others and function each day.

In short, to heal from trauma is a process — no matter if it’s mild or severe. Trauma is trauma. Hurt is hurt. It’s unfair to ask someone to wake up anything when you can’t comprehend the trials of what they’re enduring.

I know you mean well but stop. Please.

“You need Jesus.”

If you grew up in church, you’ve probably heard this a gazillion times, whether it’s from the minister or someone you know.

You’ll seek guidance, inquiring of the confusion in your life. At that moment, you haven’t been diagnosed with any mental illness. You only know the pain is more significant to fight it alone. Instead, you may hear this:

“You need to pray harder.”

“You’re not a true Christian if you need therapy.”

“Your problem is you need to get yourself into a church.”

These unfortunate statements are factual events from experiences from other people’s accounts or myself. The tone itself sounds dismissive, even indifferent. But to question someone’s faith or suggest they’re not praying hard enough is a slap to the soul you’re trying to save.

The church, especially Black churches, could do one thing to help their congregation: Create a mental health ministry.

Not only is this beneficial for the community, but ministers and their families. They’re human, suffering in silence as they lead flocks. Worse, some brave through their pain after losing someone to suicide.

“At least you have a roof over your head and food to eat.”

In summation: People who suffer from depression aren’t grateful for the things they have; instead, they rather dwell on things they don’t.

Not true.

While we deal with the hurts, sometimes in solitude, we become grateful for the minuscule and grand achievements. Our homes and basic survival requirements, such as work and groceries, don’t have anything to do with unhealed trauma.

Moving forward is a necessity as the affliction forces us to function at daily tasks. We eat to live, we socialize, and we continue to find that glimmer of hope.

If anything, gratitude bolsters a need to get help — what better way of enjoying a healed soul and reckoning with deep appreciation. It’s like, again, breathing fresh air.

“You’re strong; you can take it.”

I’ve made this statement last because I’m sure any person has heard this nonsensical phrase — moreover, a Black woman.

Yes, depression does not discriminate by race, gender, age, religion, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. But Black women have been likened to the term “strong” for generations.

The use of the word misconstrues the understanding of what the definition truly means.

African American women, dating back for centuries, were put into situations where they had no choice but to be strong.

There are no capes or a dynamic of superhuman strength to fight mental illness, however.

I don’t recall how many times I’ve pretended to be this unrealistic being while showing a Teflon exterior. And other times, I hid from my children to have a good cry.

Again, unrealistic.

True strength means having the courage to be you are. Why shroud yourself and carry the burdens of a false narrative?

Our bodies do bend, so why not our emotions?

To be clear: I’m not minimizing a group’s plight. Nor anyone’s courageous lineage or mine. I’m only stating mental health should be treated like a precious jewel.


I want to close on a true story of someone I know.

It’ll debunk the epic fails in this article:

A woman coined as “lazy” and “unmotivated” woke up every day, tending to the needs who were physically immobile under the same roof for years. What they couldn’t do for themselves, she did.

Feeling her faith declined to vast proportions, the woman held firm and kept going and going, and going. She persisted until one day, the tale of a “Strong Black Woman” had shattered into pieces, causing a severe nervous breakdown.

God was there. Her ancestors were there. But, often, divine forces aren’t enough to repair a broken soul and chemical imbalances. It takes a human contact trained to help the mentally ill.

For this woman, however, she’s on the road to healing. Yet, she asks for one thing: “Don’t give unsolicited advice to a person you know nothing of their journey. Instead, use your innate ability — listen”.



Imani Lynn Wisdom

Founder of Necé and Company Publications and the author of the book, Zion's Road. Music lover. An avid believer in equality.