I know this topic has been covered time and time again, but I still think it’s an important one to cover, and to keep talking about. There are so many comments, or misunderstandings, that can have a severely negative impact on people who struggle with their mental health – and it keeps happening.
It can be exhausting trying to explain to people why these phrases are so unhelpful, but it’s so important. A lot of the time people do think they are really helping, or they think they know better. But there are so many better ways to support people who are struggling, and it’s not hard to do them.
So, this week I have decided to put together a list of things you need to stop saying to people with mental health conditions. This is not limited to depression and anxiety, but ALL illnesses.
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Things not to say to someone with a mental health condition
Get over it/ let it go/ move on
If we could do this, trust me we would in a heart beat. We can’t just snap out of the way we are feeling, it takes years of hard work to be able to be more in control of our emotions, but the underlying condition doesn’t go away.
On that note…
Snap out of it
Equally unhelpful, because we want to but we can’t.
I know it would be better for all of us if we could just all be happy and not get anxious or overwhelmed about things that don’t even matter to most people. I want to cheer up, we all want that. But it’s not that simple.
You try to just ‘cheer up’ when you feel like your world is crashing down around you, then report back. I’m pretty sure it won’t go well.
I could, but it wouldn’t change how I’m feeling. In fact, most of us spend the majority of our day putting on a fake smile, which is exhausting, so it can be nice to not have to do that once in a while.
Just let us look as miserable as we feel for a change. It’s not going to hurt you.
What’s wrong with you?
Honestly we don’t know, so you asking us is not helping. In fact it can just make us feel more broken that we already did (which is a lot).
You should try getting some exercise
The first thing we are told by our doctors and therapists and other health professionals is that exercising releases hormones that can help boost your mood, and that this can help manage mental health problems like depression and anxiety. WE KNOW that it may be helpful or useful to get some exercise.
But we often lack the energy, motivation or mental willpower to be able to get up and do this ourselves.
The amount of times I’ve seen tweets that say ‘I swear if one more person tells me I should go for a walk I’m going to scream’. If we had a pound for every time someone suggested exercise to help our mental health we would all be rich. So maybe just stop suggesting it, we know.
It could be worse.
You may believe this statement to be true. Perhaps it is true. There’s always someone out there who has it worse than you. But reminding someone of this is not helpful.
What it does instead is completely invalidate anything that person is feeling. It’s like saying ‘you’ve got no reason to feel this way’. All it will do is make them feel worse.
Helpful things you can say instead
I don’t want this to be a completely negative post that feels more like a rant (I’m sorry this is a really touchy subject), so I thought I’d try to suggest some alternatives for you. That way you can learn to suppot those around you better!
I don’t have the answers but I am here to listen to you.
I know when you listen to someone who is struggling with their mental health and their mood it can be really hard not to weigh in, or try and fix things.
Often you can’t fix it. There are no answers. But providing a safe space where the person can vent their true feelings is so valuable.
How can I help you?
There may not be an answer to this one. All they may want is to talk, or just to sit in silence. But simply knowing you’re willing to help will make them feel safe and cared about. That’s important in itself.
Do you need someone to talk to?
If you’ve noticed someone acting differently or perhaps seeming as if they are preoccupied, it may be that they haven’t even thought to talk to someone. No, they may not want to talk to you but they will appreciate the offer.
And if they do choose to talk to you, listen. Make them feel heard.
The way you feel is okay.
Make the person feel like their emotions are valid – because they are! Lots of people get struck by low mood, feel empty or lost, or like their world is falling apart around them. It may not seem normal to you if you’ve not experienced it, but it definitely is.
Help them to feel more comfortable with how they feel, then they will be more likely to share again and ease the burden.
It’s so easy to just say something supportive when someone you know is in the throws of bad mental health. You may not understand it yourself but you can still be there for them!
What’s the most helpful thing someone has said to help you? Feel free to comment below!
Like this post? You may also like to read about the ways I personally manage my depression.