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5 Things Not to Say to Someone with a Mental Illness

It isn’t easy to live with mental illness or even with someone who suffers from mental health issues, particularly if the disorder is chronic or severe. It’s even more difficult to make others understand just how it feels to try to cope or to watch the struggle of a loved one. Unless you ever experienced a mental illness, whether yourself or through someone close to you, you may not have any idea how sensitive a subject it is. You may also not realize that it is very important to be careful about what you say.

“It could be worse.”

This is probably true for nearly every person alive. Whether you lost your job, got a divorce, or wrecked your car, someone is invariably worse off than you are. Telling someone who suffers from depression that they shouldn’t complain about being depressed because so and so has cancer is tantamount to telling them that they have no right to feel like they do. The fact that something worse happened to another person doesn’t make their condition any easier to live with. If anything they will just feel guilty for being depressed and that can worsen the depression.

“Get over it.”

These words come out easily when you feel frustrated or have just “had enough.”  The feeling is understandable because someone who constantly harps on or rehashes the same incident repeatedly can actually affect your mental well-being. For example, someone who is depressed and constantly relives a depressing situation can cause you to become depressed eventually. In a case like this, you probably begin to think “just get over it!” While it’s very normal to have these thoughts, you should be mindful when it comes to what you say. It is very easy to sound uncaring, even if that couldn’t be further from the truth.

“You’re just using this as an excuse.”

Feeling overwhelmed by someone’s disorder and thinking that they are using it to get avoid responsibility isn’t uncommon. This may occasionally happen but is certainly not always the case so care should be taken when voicing your feelings.

“You have no reason to be depressed. Look at all the things you have to be happy about.”

This statement is essentially dismissing their illness and making it seem as if they should be able to control how they feel. It can cause feelings of guilt because they can’t make themselves feel happy. The sufferer doesn’t necessarily need any reason to feel the way they do. One of the symptoms of disorders such as depression is feeling depressed for no apparent reason and they certainly don’t want to feel that way. They simply can help the feelings that they have.

“Don’t you want to feel better?”

This statement can be particularly hurtful because while the person most likely does want to feel better, they may feel hopeless or as if their mental disorder is controlling them. Discouraging feedback is the last thing that they need because they already have enough mental distress and turmoil as it is. No one wants to feel this way, there is simply nothing they can do to control the way they feel.

There are so many misconceptions about mental disorders that people often make offensive comments unwittingly. Each person who suffers from a mental disorder faces a battle that you know nothing about and a comment that is meant to be helpful can often cause the sufferer more pain than you know. If you know someone who suffers from mental illness, be mindful of what you say, even if you are trying to help.

More on: Adult Mental Health Care, Caregiver, Depression
Latest update: September 27, 2016