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Stop Minimizing Mental Illness: Worst Things to Say

I feel, sometimes, that I am at war with the mentally-well world. This isn’t to say that many of them aren’t lovely or that I have a desire to harm anyone, but I do feel embroiled. And it’s mostly because the well population just doesn’t understand what it is to be unwell. They demonstrate this heartily by repeatedly saying the worst things possible to a person with a mental illness.

Worst Things to Say to a Person With a Mental Illness

Some people say the worst things possible to a person with mental illness and minimize mental illness. Read and see what I mean.Here are some of my favorite worst things to say to a depressed person or really anyone with a mental illness.

  1. Snap out of it
  2. There are a lot of people worse off than you
  3. You have so many things to be thankful for, how can you be depressed?
  4. You’d feel better if you got off all those pills
  5. What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger
  6. Go out and have some fun
  7. I know how you feel
  8. So you’re depressed, aren’t you always?
  9. This too shall pass
  10. We all have our crosses to bear

And as a bonus, my personal favorite: We create our own reality.

Ugh. (I’m not the only one thinking about this, check out the worst things to say to anxious people.)

Why These are Stupid Things to Say

Any of those statements shows that you have no idea what you’re talking about. You fundamentally do not understand the concept of a mental illness if you think any one of these are appropriate. I suggest trying it with other physical health problems and see how you feel:

Hey, diabetic, snap out of it.
Hey, epileptic, I know how you feel.
Hey, paraplegic, so you can’t use your legs, isn’t that always the case?
Hey, person with multiple sclerosis, we create our own reality.

You get the idea. No one would think that is reasonable, and it’s no more reasonable just because you can’t see the illness because it’s in my brain.

These Are Hurtful Things to Say

And perhaps worse than showing ignorance, these things even inflict pain on the person you’re trying to “help”. You are saying that:

  1. They could choose not to be sick if they really wanted
  2. Their illness is not serious
  3. They have no “reason” to be ill
  4. Their treatment is wrong
  5. They’ll be better off from it
  6. They would be fine if they would just “go out”
  7. Their illness is minimal
  8. Their pain doesn’t matter
  9. They should just wait for the pain to end
  10. Their illness is just like anyone else’s problem
  11. They choose to be sick

Again, I dare you to tell a person with any other illness any of those things.

And lest we forget, the mentally ill person in front of you is already probably feeling very bad about themselves, and you have chosen to go and make it worse.

Let’s Not Forget, People Die From Mental Illness

Here are the worst things to say to a person with mental illness. Isn't it time you stop minimizing mental illness?The idea that mental illness is serious isn’t something that I made up, it is a fact. Estimates are 1 in 5 people with bipolar disorder commit suicide and 1 in 2 people (yes, that’s half) attempt it. And, of course, there are hospitalizations, work absences, destroyed families, having to go on disability, and so on. This is serious stuff people. It is not a runny nose.

Why Do People with Mental Illness Have to Justify Themselves?

Why is it that just because I see a psychiatrist and you see a neurologist your disease is real and mine is not? Why is it you assume I can will my disease away while you can’t? Why is it that you can expect me to bring you chicken soup when you get the flu but when I get sick I can’t even expect that you’ll stick around?

I do understand that people don’t know they are being hurtful. People are trying to help. I get it. But here’s the thing, my illness is just as real as anyone else’s. Please stop forcing me to convince you.

Update: Check out the best things to say to someone with a mental illness.

You can find Natasha Tracy on Facebook or GooglePlus or @Natasha_Tracy on Twitter or at the Bipolar Burble, her blog.

Author: Natasha Tracy

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251 thoughts on “Stop Minimizing Mental Illness: Worst Things to Say”

  1. Thank you so much, I’ll show your text to my friends and family because besides my disease I have to deal with EVERYTHING you wrote! Thanks again!!!

  2. I also thank you. Not only have I been hearing these comments and others all my life, but I have also said these things to myself. I am starting to show myself more compassion.

  3. Hi Adriana,

    Many of us can definitely identify with that. Please share to all you can. We crazies need to stick together and demand respect.

    – Natasha

  4. Hi Gretchen,

    I’ve told myself these things too. The really sad thing is we use the awful things that other people say to beat ourselves up. It just another part of the disorder.

    But yes, please be kind and gentle with yourself. You deserve it.

    You’re welcome, of course.

    – Natasha

  5. yeah. and I’m in no way knocking anyone’s spiritual beliefs, but really, unless you know someone is interested in religion, do *not* tell them, “just give it to god”. it ain’t that easy.

  6. Thank you so much! I know my friends mean well when they suggest that I just need to get out more or have a date night with my husband. But what they don’t understand is that I don’t want to leave the house, I can barely leave the couch, and I love my husband, but he, and all other people, are bothering the shit out of me right now, so no, I don’t think going out is going to solve the problem.

  7. Boy is this timely. Just last night my boss stopped by my office to tell me that he has noticed that I have seemed “down” for the past couple of weeks (he is aware of my diagnosis of Bipolar II.) I can usually put on my “Happy at Work” face and get by but this has been a particualrly bad episode for me. His “suggestion” was for me to “Get out and have some fun!” “Call your friends. Go out and have a couple of beers and a Pizza. Put a smile on your face.” Instead, I went home and took some Klonapin.

  8. Hi. I totally relate to this experience. The ‘go out and have some fun’ is a classic I have heard many times. Sorry but a few drinks and a meal out is just not going to cut it. And I have found myself making excuses too – like saying; ‘there are many people with much more difficult problems than I – I should be thankful’ But I don’t feel like being thankful for a disorder today. Or any day. And absolutely – this is not a choice – this is not feeling sorry for myself. I hate the excuses and the feeling of being ‘weak minded’ I am over it. Other people should only comment if they UNDERSTAND. And mostly – they don’t…

  9. oh my god!

    summed up my anger,bitterness,resentment,self reproach so well.after hearing these helpful comments from others there is this whole cycle of self reproach that usually follows when u now repeat these statements to yourself and judge yourself for obviously not trying hard enough since u pretty much stand where u were!….there’s more self loathing,more depression and more ‘help’ from others.and so it goes on….

    well written!

  10. Kate,

    I completely agree. Telling someone anything from a religion is just a poke in the eye. Not only does it say “you’re not doing the right thing” but it also says, “you don’t even have the right belief system to get better.”

    It’s really tough to take.

    – Natasha

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