You may be well-meaning by telling a struggling friend to cheer up, think positive, pray more, read the Bible more, eat better, serve others more, rest more, etc. However, the fact is they could already be doing all of these things and still be struggling with mental illness just as someone struggling with cancer or a broken bone may not be instantly cured by “chin up” talks from friends.
Mental illness is as real and complex as cancer, fractures, or any other illness or injury – just often times not as visible. And often these crippling mental illnesses remain invisible because the sufferers feel shamed and/or shunned if they share.
This shaming and shunning is particularly prevalent in some Christian communities where the (false) assumption is that if you have enough faith, you’ll have a healthy and happy life. The truth is, Christians suffering from mental illness may very well be seeking and trusting God with more faith, trust, and passion than those who haven’t suffered this way have even ever needed to muster.
So continue to pray for your friend who struggles with mental illness. But if you can’t have a conversation with them where your part is mostly listening and supporting rather than offering ideas, solutions, and quick fixes which essentially admonish the sufferer to “snap out of it”, it may be best to say nothing at all.