Things not to say to people who live with a mental illness
Living with any mental illness is hard. Life can feel pointless at times and even the smallest thing can feel massive. Mental illness affects 1 in 4 of us. You might suffer yourself or know someone who does. It’s a scary thought that so many people live with horrible, nasty and mean thoughts everyday. They might not be able to do the things they want to or they can’t stop the thoughts from taunting them. They could be trying to run away from the past but flashbacks keep them held in place. For some, the only thought is giving up. It’s a sad truth and these are not even a fraction of the things people go though on a daily basis. One thing people who suffer don’t need is people saying nasty things to them. Sometimes these people are being nasty but a lot of the time it’s because they don’t understand what they are saying can really affect someone who is suffering.
So, what shouldn’t you say?
This has got to be one of the most annoying and hurtful things you can say to someone. Mental illness is in the mind and funny enough, you can’t see in there but does that mean it’s not real? This also comes into the fact people with mental illness will still wear make up, have a shave and wear nice clothes. There really are no signs to look out for that someone isn’t struggling because a lot of the time we do have our shit together and sometimes we don’t
This one is just down right insensitive and really degrading. Medication for mental illness has come a long way and for many, including myself, it’s saved us but it’s not cured us. Just because someone is on medication it doesn’t mean they are not going to have a bad day. If someone is struggling and they hear this from you it’s going to make them feel like an idiot because what is being implied here is they didn’t take their medication thus they are now feeling awful - which isn’t the case.
For people with trauma they can’t just get over it. A symptom of PTSD is reliving it over and over with no choice. If something awful has happened to someone it’s not going to go away that simply. People who are suffering don’t want to be, they want to move on with their lives and saying “get over it” isn’t going to help. In a way it downgrades what they are going though, which isn’t nice.
Mental health and mental illness affects both men and women the same. Sex doesn’t determine who can cry and who can’t. It also doesn’t decide who will be depressed, have an eating disorder or feel suicidal. The term “Mad Up” is so damaging to the guys. If a guy is struggling and they are told to man up it’s going to make them feel less of a man, which is something they shouldn’t be feeling. It’s just such a silly thing to say and it can affect men getting help that they really need. It’s just keeping that stereotype alive that men should be doing abc and can’t feel 123. Saying the words man up is bullying, period.
If someone with a broken leg said they were feeling awful and in a lot of pain most people would say, stay in and rest up. When someone is feeling awful because of their mental illness a night out isn’t going to solve it. It makes the issue look small and all they need is a little fun to not be depressed.
Mental illness doesn’t work like an infection. You don’t ever get cured, you are in recovery. There really is a big difference. On the journey of recovery there will be highs and lows and when someone has hit their low being told “I thought you were all better now” isn’t going to pull them out of the darkness, it’s going to make them feel more crap. Education is key here and people need to realise that mental illness can be forever, it’s just managed.
Just because Laura, a friend on Facebook as anxiety in one way it doesn’t mean you can’t have it another way. Some people don’t want to be around people and others do! No two anxiety symptoms are the same. These “stories” from other people are so hurtful to others that suffer. It makes them feel strange because they feel a way or because they can’t do something. Don’t compare one person to another, no one is the same.
People who feel suicidal are in a dark, scary place. They feel like life isn’t worth living for many reasons. At that time they are in no position mentally to think about their family and how it might affect them. For some as well they feel others will be better off without them. Suicide is a scary thing and people do everyday take their own life but how could that be considered selfish? They are clearly struggling so much mentally and see that as a way to end their pain. The distress they are feeling isn’t going to allow them to think about others clearly. Feeling suicidal isn’t selfish and saying it is just adds to the stigma.
The unwanted advice which is always so simple and straight forward yet doesn’t help at all. Telling someone who is struggling with a mental illness to sleep to make everything okay is a false promise and it’s making their problems smaller than they are. If it really was that simple people wouldn’t suffer everyday, would they? Most of the time this comes from the heart but people do need to realise that this can be mean to someone who is living with something very difficult.
There are so many things you shouldn’t say to someone struggling with a mental illness and these are just a few that people have sent in to me. Most of the time people say these things with no cruel intentions, it’s just a lack of understanding. This is why it’s so important to talk about them and get them out there, so people know. Education is key to helping people understand mental illness and how it affects people on a daily basis. It’s also needed so less people are hurt by rude, nasty or silly comments.
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