Today I want to write about something that has been very pressing on my mind lately. As someone who was diagnosed with a third mental illness last year, I can be overly sensitive to what people say or do around me and it got me thinking… How many times do kind, well meaning people slip up and say something that can cause more pain and harm then good? Here’s a list of things NOT to say to someone with a mental illness or who is struggling with their mental health.
- Do not refer to the individual by their illness. I am not the depressed girl, or the bipolar chick. I am Nichole. A Young Woman who happens to struggle with a mental illness.
- If an individual tries to commit suicide, that does not forever make them suicidal.
- Someone who has struggled with self harm should not be referred to as an emo, goth or cutter.
- Do not tell an individual who struggles with self harm, depression or anxiety that they are doing it for attention or drama. These struggles are real and should be taken seriously.
- Although I may have a mental illness, I am not fragile, broken or weak. I am a strong, independent, successful woman who happens to be diagnosed with a mental illness.
- Talking about it doesn’t make it happen again. Talking about depression wont make me depressed. Talking to others about self harm wont make them hurt themselves.
- Do not blame every emotion or action on my mental illness. I still make my decisions. I (usually) have control of my actions.
- Things like “Try harder,” “you must not want to get better” or “It’s your decision to get better” do not help someone with a mental illness. We are not feeling sorry for ourselves. Many of these illnesses are actually chemical imbalances or neurological disorders. We do not have any control over it at all.
- Saying things like “your not alone” can be helpful, but saying something like “there’s someone worse off than you” are not.
- Do not assume you know how the individual feels. Even if you have gone through the same situations, or have the same disorder, EVERYONE is different and handles these things differently.
- Have you tried “drinking tea,” or “taking this supplement or herb”? In some instances this might be okay, but for most its like saying to them, “have you tried waving a wand and making it all disappear?” It is just not that simple.
- “Just get out of bed! Have you tried keeping busy? It will distract you.” Or not. Sometimes getting out of bed can be a huge obstacle and “keeping busy” can seem impossible.
- You need to change your attitude or your way of thinking. Just focus on the good things. Although this can help at times, this is not an end all solution and should not be meant as such.
- “You’re just lazy.” No. No I’m not. The fact that I got out of bed today is a miracle. It was a struggle that you do not understand.
- “You’re not praying hard enough.” As someone who grew up in the church, I have heard this many times. Not only is it unhelpful but makes the individual feel even worse about themselves. As stated before, many disorders are a chemical imbalance and although I do believe prayer can help and even heal, sometimes we need to use medication or therapy as well. This seems to always be a huge controversy, but I would like to say this. If you have a cold you can pray and ask for healing. But if it doesn’t go away immediately, you might look for cough or sinus medication to help ease the discomfort. Mental illness should be treated with the same sort of mindset as any other illness.
What are some other things that you just cannot stand that people say about others with Mental Illnesses? Share them in the comments below! Remember, You are NOT alone. You are Special. And You are Loved.
Nichole is a Social Media Marketing Manager, student, daughter and friend. She’s working on her Marketing Diploma and has a Certificate of Christian Theology. She is an avid coffee lover who enjoys a good movie or book. She takes great joy in organizing, scheduling, and volunteering. Her passion for volunteerism extends specifically to those who are hurting, whether it is emotionally, physically, or mentally.
Nichole is certified to provide Mental Health First Aid, which means she can provide immediate support and guidance in a safe environment, comfortably have a conversation about mental health related issues and offer professional and other supports. This does NOT make Nichole a psychologist, or a counselor. It simply gives her the tools to direct people to the help they need.