What NOT To Say To Someone Struggling With Mental Illness

By: Ileana Paules-Bronet

Trigger Warning: This piece features phrases regarding mental illness that may be upsetting for some readers.

People experiencing mental health issues have usually heard some sort of insensitive comment from a friend, family member, stranger, or even medical professional regarding what is going on inside their mind. The point of “Under The Labels” is to work toward minimizing the stigmas surrounding mental illnesses, mental disorders, and other mental health issues. Often, people don’t even realize that what they are saying is insensitive; a variety of people who have experienced an insensitive or offensive comment about their own mental health have shared some of the insensitive comments they’ve heard below:

  • “Oh, stop being so dramatic!” – My mother, all the time
  • “Come on, how many therapists have you been to?” – A soccer coach of mine, in front of my team. He also called me ‘psycho’ instead of my name; this was all his idea of a joke.
  • “Happiness is a choice. You don’t need drugs. I’ve always just chosen to be happy!” – A friend of mine, while I was on antidepressants. She was trying to cheer me up out of depression, I guess.
  • I started to have a panic attack on a bus on the way back from a track meet; since we hadn’t left yet, I ran off the bus trying to breathe. I stood next to the bus picking up ice cubes, chucking them, counting, rocking back and forth trying my best to come back to this world when my coach came off the bus. He assumed I left for other reasons and told me “Stop having a pity party, suck it up.” You can’t suck up anxiety attacks.
  • Growing up I struggled with PTSD, ADHD and dyslexia; this was very taxing on my teachers and once a teacher told me, “You are a baby who will not amount to anything.” Another said, “You are lazy and stupid.” I wasn’t.
  • “It’s a self fulfilling prophecy” – Roommate/Good Friend
  • “It might really help your anxiety if you just started smoking weed.” – An old friend
  • “You really should see an acupuncturist instead of taking medication.”
  • “It’s all in your mind” – A family member and couple of friends. “You’re fine, just let it go” – Family/friends

If you struggle with your mental health, you have probably heard at least one of these things. From people giving you suggestions on how to “overcome” depression, to lessons on anxiety, to telling you about why you shouldn’t be on medication, we’ve heard it all. How many times have you heard something like, “Oh my god, I can’t believe he didn’t propose to her last night on the Bachelor, I was so depressed for the rest of the night,” or, “He hasn’t texted me back in an hour, it’s giving me crazy anxiety!”? My guess is more than once. People overuse mental health terminology (“I’m so depressed,” “That test gave me anxiety,” “She got mad all of a sudden, I swear she’s bipolar”), but don’t give the actual mental conditions the credit they deserve. Every time we share one of these stories, someone somewhere might realize the impact their words can have — we can change the mental health atmosphere one sentence at a time.
If you’ve experienced similar negative or insensitive comments and want to share them, please comment below!

Image via Pexels

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3 thoughts on “What NOT To Say To Someone Struggling With Mental Illness

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