Talking to someone with a mental illness can be daunting if you have not got much experience of mental illnesses. But we are just like regular people. This is a post about some things not to say to someone with a mental illness. They are things I have heard and thought are unhelpful. Some have been said to me, others are just things I have heard said to others.
1. “Others have it worse than you”- This is the first on my list and is a particularly unhelpful statement. It is one I have even heard from a mental health professional when I was feeling particularly suicidal. Yes, we are aware that other people may have it worse than us but that does not diminish our pain or lessen the impact of what we are going through. It is a patronising statement as well as being hurtful and unhelpful. Just because someone may be going through something worse, it does not stop someone else hurting g. And who made it a competition anyway?
2. ” Think about others”- This is another statement I’ve had said to me when suicidal and its one that really hurts me. When I am feeling suicidal I am thinking of others constantly and have come to the conclusion they would be better off without me. It is not a selfish decision on the whole and most people with mental illnesses are constantly thinking of others. The problem is our thinking is distorted.
3. “You’re selfish”- This leads on from my last statement. Most people who are mentally unwell think of others before themselves. Quite often they feel that they are a burden to others. They have thoughts that people would be better off without them. They are being far from selfish. Their think in is just distorted. They are struggling to deal with overwhelming thoughts and feelings. Sometimes they need to look after themselves first before they can help others. They are not selfish.
4. “You’re attention seeking”- I have heard this used in particular with people who self harm or attempt suicide and it is simply not true. Most people who do this are in so much pain that this is the only way they can see of coping with it. Also people tend to try and hide these behaviours, far from using them to attract attention. Others with mental illnesses may hear this statement too. It is invalidating. Please remember we are ill, not attention seekers.
5. “You have a great life”- Another invalidating statement. Just because someone has a great life does not mean they can’t get mentally ill because it is an ILLNESS. You wouldn’t say it to someone with cancer or a physical illness, so please dont say it to us. No one can help getting ill.
These are just a few statements that I wish people wouldn’t say. I am sure you have many more. Feel free to share in the comments. I may revisit this topic at a later date with more things not to say.
Picture from Pinterest