When a loved one is dealing with depression or any other mental illnesses its only natural to want to help. You want to give an encouraging word or two. Sometimes when you are only trying to help, you may say things that not only wouldn’t actually help, but may also make the situation worse unbeknownst to you. Here are the top things Not to say to someone dealing with depression or any other mental illness:
1. Stop acting crazy
As you probably realized by now telling someone to calm down or stop acting crazy usually makes the person more anxious and agitated. If they’re already doing something legitimately considered insane, it may only cause them to do something worse. It’ll also just make them feel worse about themselves which could lead to a suicide attempt. Remember, your words are more powerful than you think.
2. It’s not that serious
Because you can’t see a mental illness like you can see a physical illness you may not see the severity of what that person is going through. You might look at that person’s life overall and think to yourself he/she has everything so why are they so sad? Some mental illnesses may be caused by a chemical imbalance, trauma, or genetics; so there may not be a reason you can actually see that is causing the issues. However, that doesn’t mean what they’re going through isn’t real and isn’t severe. Try to remember that what may seem small or even non-existent to you can be very real and very scary for someone else ie: someone suffering from schizophrenia. Be kind.
3. Things could be worse
This one should be a no brainer but there are people who still say this meaningfully. Yes, things could be worse but that person’s pain is very real to them and they need support not guilt. They don’t need the extra guilt from feeling like they should not be feeling the way they’re feeling as if they could actually control it. We really need to erase this statement from our brains. Even though this statement is true in most circumstances it does not help at all in any situation. All it really does is bring shame to the person who is experiencing a tough time. If you really think about it that statement is actually pointless. It does nothing positive.
4. We all go through things
I’d have to say that this statement is my biggest pet peeve. This statement is so hurtful and causes so many people to not seek help or even discuss what they’re going through. Yes, we all go through things but we all don’t experience mental illnesses. If you don’t take anything from anything that I’ve said thus far please please pay attention to this… Depression and Major Depressive Disorder and any other mental illness is Not the same! Yes everyone can get depressed. Everyone can experience a time of depression but if you suffer from clinical depression etc. it can last way longer and/or be brought on for No reason at all. For example, if you lost your job or broke up with your GF/BF you might get sad or even depressed and it may last for a while. That is normal. I have had suicidal thoughts for as long as I can remember. I can remember not wanting to live as young as 5 years old for absolutely no reason at all. This is not normal. These are not the same thing! That statement is an unfair comparison that does so much damage, so please stop using it. If you can’t think of anything to say then just listen or just simply say “I’m here for you”.
5. Go (self medicate) you’ll feel better
I know you mean well and you can probably go get a drink or maybe even partake in an illegal substance or two from time to time and that is ok… for you. Please do not encourage anyone experiencing symptoms of a mental illness to do those things. For one, they may be on medications that can interfere with any other drugs or even alcohol that you may not be aware of. They may also become worse if they are having an episode and may become a danger to you, someone else, or even themselves. Some drugs and alcohol can increase psychotic or bi-polar episodes that can lead to dangerous consequences. People who experience some forms of mental illness can also be more prone to addiction so it’s best to just not indulge.
6. But you always seem so happy
That is a mask we wear daily to fit into society in order to try to live a somewhat normal life. To be honest I used to think everyone was faking being happy like me because I’ve never experienced anything else. So while I was pretending, I just assumed everyone else was pretending. It wasn’t until I was in my late 20’s when I finally realized that feeling the way I was feeling was not normal, and maybe I should get some help so that I may be able to actually experience real happiness one day. Some of the funniest people you know are suffering silently inside. Some of the people you idolize for having it all together are falling apart inside and you wouldn’t know unless they told you.
7. You need more faith
Don’t be this person. Your faith is important to you. I understand that but having faith may assist you in your journey to become mentally healthy but it will not take away the main issue. As I stated previously mental illnesses are caused by different reasons and it cannot just be prayed away. You have to actually put in the work and chose to never give up. This isn’t easy by far. Please don’t push your religion on anyone. All that will bring is more shame and guilt which can lead to a suicide attempt or a delay in getting help.
8. You don’t need medication
I am not big on taking medication believe it or not. Medications have side effects that can be severe or cause more problems than those they fix. When my son was diagnosed with ADHD I chose not to medicate him because his issues were not severely disturbing his schooling. I knew that he could be successful with his IEP as well as my help. In that case the side effects were not worth the risks. On the other hand I chose to medicate myself because without medication I may not have been here typing this now. It is my opinion in my experience medication has lowered my suicidal thoughts and impulsive actions. My suicidal thoughts, agitations and mood swings used to be worse. Without medication I’d probably be in jail or dead right now. In my case the chance of experiencing negative side effects was a risk I was willing to take to get better. The right medication and therapy takes time to find. I am on my seventh medication. I pay attention to my body and if I don’t like something I tell my doctor and we try something else until we find one that’s best. Yes it may be a long journey to find the right fit but don’t give up. Yes, I am big on the holistic route, and I try to study and find alternatives for many issues but you are not a licensed physician. Don’t encourage someone to stop taking medication. Completely stopping medication cold turkey can cause severe withdrawal effects as well as severe suicidal thoughts that can lead to terrible consequences.
9. You’re a downer etc./ You’re making me want to kill myself
Even if you’re saying this jokingly you can make someone feel worse for telling you and this could cause suicidal attempts. Someone who is suicidal can easily be persuaded to attempt suicide by hearing someone say those words. Telling someone they’re bringing down your mood immediately makes them regret opening up to you and may cause them to never open up again. Making other people feel bad is one of the main reasons people give for not opening up to anyone in the first place. When I disappear my friends usually know that I’m more depressed than usual and my reason for not bothering them is “I didn’t want to be a killjoy or bring them down”. I still have a bad habit of doing this even though I know that I wouldn’t be bringing them down. Most people care more about other peoples feelings than they do their own, especially if they’re experiencing low self esteem which usually comes with severe depression.
10. Therapy is for weak people
In American (mainly African American) culture, we have been taught this all of our lives. Until recently, therapy has been seen as useless to us. Especially for black men. I am so glad that this stigma is slowly dying finally. This way of thinking may have been drilled in us from the religious beliefs that were forced upon our ancestors years ago. In christianity and many other religious beliefs we’re taught that God is all we need and that seeking therapy is going against God or not trusting God. Also, growing up in the hood no one went to therapy. You just dealt with everything… mental illness didn’t exist unless it was something that could be seen like schizophrenia. Hell, everybody’s going through shit in the hood so of course you’re “depressed”. Which is another reason why so many people of color go through life without even realizing anything is wrong. I saw a meme somewhere that said something like: “You weren’t supposed to see or experience the things you have; the whole hood is suffering from PTSD”. Where’s the lie? You are a product of your environment. My main point is we have to end this stigma that only weak people go to therapy. If we want to help each other heal we must encourage therapy and any other positive assistance when it comes to mental health. We can not be completely healthy if we are only physically fit.