What NOT to say to someone with a mental health condition

Them: “You just need to cheer up”

Me: “And you just need a blow dart to the crotch but that isn’t feasible either..”

So, I’d say I’ve had mental health problems for the majority of my life and in that time I’ve been given loads of “helpful” tips by wannabe doctors, philosophers and counsellors. Below are my top 5 most annoying “tips” that really just piss me off – I would say pardon my French but you all know me well enough now to know that swearing is like breathing to me and if you don’t like…well, you know what to do..

1)      “It’s all in your head” – Well fucking DUH! Yeah it’s a bona-fide problem which just happens to be located in my head. It doesn’t make it any less justified than a broken arm or slipped disc. It hurts just as bad and I deserve the same amount of sympathy other people get who have physical illnesses. Not only that, I shouldn’t be judged for being mentally ill. There is a massive negative connotation associated with mental illnesses and I think it’s totally unfair. If anything, people who “come out” and share their stories should be commended not vilified.

2)      “My aunt’s brother’s wife’s stepchild’s friend of a friend’s cousin has a mental health condition so I totally get how you feel” – No, no you don’t. Every person experiences their mental health diagnosis or condition differently even those with the same conditions. It is unique to each person, think of it as a fucked up snowflake; each completely and painfully different in each way. So before you think that my anxiety attacks manifest in the same way as your aunt’s brother’s wife’s stepchild’s friend of a friend’s cousin I suggest you close your mouth and open your ears to try and understand what my condition means and does to me. Mmmmmmkay?

3)      “You just have too much time on your hands, you need a hobby or a job!” – Wow. Thank you for equating my mental disability/condition/illness to having too much time on my hands. I love how you have made it into a “self-made or self-inflicted” problem, high five. Firstly, I would still have these thoughts, ruminations and/or anxiety attacks even if I was insanely busy with no free time so hush your gums, Self-Appointed Fix-it Police and secondly, have you ever thought that maybe I have tried to get a job but the stressors of my mental health condition have caused me to resign? Or perhaps my depression sucks the fun out of anything I remotely enjoy? Believe me – I am trying my best but until you are paralysed with fear and so overcome with exhaustion you can’t even leave your bed you don’t get to comment. Sorry!

4)      “I don’t think you’re trying hard enough, you’ve got to really want to get over it” – Hahahahahahahaha, yes…that is the problem. My lack of commitment and will to want to get over it. Gotcha! No, you ignoramus. Just no. I know plenty of people who every day fight a huge battle to just get out of bed and put on clothes, let alone get to work, look after a family and care for themselves. These people are fucking warriors and contrary to some beliefs, we really do want to contribute to our society and do our best with what we have been dealt with. Perhaps you need to get over the fact that your views are archaic and understand that mental health conditions are a legitimate concern and need addressing with love and compassion instead of anger and judgement.

5)       “You’ve just got to not think about it as much, just ignore it” – I’m sorry but would you tell someone who punctured a lung to “just ignore it?” “Yeah mate, don’t worry about that not being able to breath feeling, just focus on something else for a bit.” I don’t think I need to go into how ludicrous that statement is, so how come the brave people who tell us about their condition get the above dismissive response? Ignoring it and pretending like it’s not there is part of the problem. Burying your feelings, although the staple recommendation in the ethnic and male community, isn’t going to help. In all honesty, it will probably make it worse.

There are loads more where that came from but I feel that perhaps I was getting a bit too fiery as the list got longer. Please don’t get me wrong, I don’t think people are saying these comments to be cruel. Sometimes the people who say these things honestly think they are helping and I’m sure deep down they don’t realise how damaging these statements could be to someone who is suffering from a mental health problem. This list was formulated to help people who know someone or are trying to support someone they love who is suffering from such difficulties. I wanted to show what doesn’t help first because what does help is again specific to that person. One resounding statement that I think helps everyone, when I asked, was the space to talk openly about how they are feeling and not be judged for it.

It is so hard to sometimes articulate your thoughts when you are depressed, anxious or in a manic state consequently having someone say: “I am here for you if you need it, I hold space for you to speak openly and freely without judgement” is of paramount importance. This compassion helps people like me feel less ashamed of what we are going through.  It’s sad that we still feel ashamed but by having more people say the above sentence or some version of it might help us to stop judging ourselves so harshly.

If you are currently looking for ways to help someone you care about please check out the Mind Charity website (link below) and try to keep these things in mind. We are just as confused and frustrated as you are, we don’t want to feel this way and just hope that the people we love don’t give up on us and continue to treat us with love, compassion and respect. I know I do not speak for the whole of the mental health community, the “helpful hint” I mentioned above is just how I’d like to be treated by those around me.

I wish you all the best of luck and hopefully together, with a little bit of love for our fellow man, we can end the stigma associated with mental illness ❤

https://www.mind.org.uk/

 

 

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