Stop Minimizing Mental Illness: Worst Things to Say

September 7, 2010 Natasha Tracy

Some people say the worst things to a person with mental illness. They're hurtful and minimize mental illness. Read and see what I mean.

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.

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2010, September 7). Stop Minimizing Mental Illness: Worst Things to Say, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 18 from

Author: Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is a renowned speaker, award-winning advocate, and author of Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar. She's also the host of the podcast Snap Out of It! The Mental Illness in the Workplace Podcast.

Natasha is also unveiling a new book, Bipolar Rules! Hacks to Live Successfully with Bipolar Disorder, mid-2024.

Find Natasha Tracy on her blog, Bipolar BurbleX, InstagramFacebook, and YouTube.

Lilia Robberts
July, 25 2018 at 8:21 am

I have a child that thinks that she has depression. Because mental health is such a new thing for me, it is hard to know what to do. Thank you for letting me know that I should tell my daughter to say things like, "Snap out of it." or "Go out and have some fun." Along with being more careful of what I say, I will also find her counseling for her problem.

Moumita Mallick
May, 14 2018 at 12:27 am

All of these are the flashbacks of my past, when I was depressed. I know that people around me were just try to make me feel better but they should thing before they speak. Because their words were only making me more upset. Anyway thanks so much for this post.

July, 26 2017 at 7:31 pm

I found out that I'm bipolar at the age of sixty, while researching how to best support my daughter when she was diagnosed as BP2. I've had doctors ask me if I thought that maybe I might be bipolar, over the years (I sometimes tend to come across as intimidating, and occasionally intimidate intimidators), but I would shrug it off with a wisecrack, while constantly wondering why I'm not like other people. Why have I lost so many friends over the years, why have I been divorced three times (I would've left me too, if I could have), why do I always feel like a hole that can't be filled, why'd I get stuck with an addictive personality, how can I work on a project for three days without eating or sleeping, then, why do I wish that I could sleep forever? So, after my daughter's diagnosis, I told my most recent doctor that she's probably been right all these years. I'm bipolar.
Now that the puzzle has finally been solved, do I get a Do over? Of course not! But I continue to research how to 'control' this 900 lb. gorilla, which brought me to your blog. I'm hooked. It's a bipolar goldmine ( so to speak)! Thank you for what you do!

April, 8 2017 at 11:19 pm

This article is SPOT ON! Thank you! I have recently been having flashbacks of the multiple suicide attempts I made years ago. These memories had been buried in my subconscious, so it's very scary to be "reliving" them for the first time. As I shared that this was happening to me with a family member I thought might be a good support, she replied, "Well, are you embellishing on those memories? Maybe you're seeking attention." I was stunned into silence. Those memories are horrible! Why would anyone ever wish to make them sound worse than they already are?!?! The guilt and shame I feel for what I put my family through is palpable. Why would I ever seek their attention?!?! I just withdrew further into myself, and now feel I have no support from my family. It's a lonely place to be. Thankfully, I have a wonderful treatment team I can lean on, because they are the only ones I have left.

January, 8 2017 at 7:14 am

Its frustrating when you feel unwell and are not up to working,ecercising anything really.people who dont have bipolar and have an off today must find it hard to understand having off days not just once or twice but consistently for weeks or at the moment months on end.its soul destroying.things will get better i hear people say including my psychiatrist.i hope so as i feel a terrible low self esteem from being unwell.shame,guilt,fear and wonder what the future will scared and am praying to the angels and god to give me some hope and peace.the biggest thing is to want to go on with life despite everything.

November, 28 2016 at 1:56 pm

Some of these commentors still don't get it. Its not like people like my self who suffer from mental illness dont know that some of this is true. WE KNOW! The point of the illness is that we struggle with thinking clearly despite knowing these things. For a lot of us that is the worst part. This is why we end up isolating because rather then people asking how they can help or just listening, they keep trying to teach us like we're just to stupid and selfish to be healthy. Then we start believing that and hiding or commiting that out of shame and defeat when thats not the case. When the brain is sick, we have trouble thinking clearly. We dont want to be that way but we are. We would love to be able to think clearly. Stop trying to teach right off the bat and try sympathizing first because that is far more effective the minimizing our pain.

Veronique H
November, 22 2016 at 4:29 am

You make a lot of good points and I truly wish other people understood bipolar/mental illness more. I recently wrote an article about what not to say to people in therapy. It's surprising how many people think therapy or mental health counseling is a waste of time. Thanks for your article!

September, 30 2016 at 11:40 am

I have bi-polar disorder and sometimes have "black" says where I just hate everything and wish I could just vanish in a puff of smoke. On one of those days I found this refrigerator magnet that really rings true for me:
"I have this weird self-esteem issue where I hate myself, yet I still think I'm better than everyone else." It still makes me laugh.

AJ Michaels
May, 25 2016 at 5:07 pm

The "What do you have to be depressed about?" one is what gets me. Or when I had a relative recently say, "Everyone at my job has a touch of OCD. We have to in order to do what we do." I know what she meant, but still...

May, 25 2016 at 4:41 am

I'm making a guess that you have BP1. The BP2 people I know are too tired or depressed to repeatedly analyze a bunch of strangers. What you say is true, but you are shoving it down people's throats and seem manic.

May, 7 2016 at 5:59 am

I am also grateful for an Employee Assistance Program at work. When I was at my lowest I used their services. I was promptly driven to a hospital and involuntarily committed. Was I happy about that. No! I felt betrayed but I got over it.
I realize not everyone is as fortunate as I am in some cases BUT the point I am trying to make is that if you truly want help you have to learn to ask for it and keep asking until you get the help you need and then you have to be willing to fight and do the work involved and not give up to achieve some semblance of health and well being. I was very angry for a very long time and often turned that anger inward toward myself which only worsened my depression but eventually I learned to channel my anger in getting well.
In the beginning when I was searching for help my GP was on sick leave so I ended up seeing locum after locum in her office for a about a year looking for help but to no avail. I eventually went to an emergency ward on my own. I was given medication and told to go back to my GP. What I needed was a specialist, a pdoc not a GP. When my GP retired early because of health issues a new permanent GP replaced her. After only 2 visits with her I was sent to hospital. When I got out I changed pdocs a number of times because they were not helping me. By the time I actually found a pdoc that was helpful I was so fed up with doctors that I flipped out on this one because I thought he was going to be just like the others. I'm glad I didn't give up because he's the reason I am more stable today. He's part of a community care team. I have a case worker now who also directs me to services I never even new about. Some have been helpful and others have not
If you're not happy with the type of care you are getting try going somewhere else and keep fighting until you do find something that helps. Be your own advocate. Be open to doing the work involved. Take baby steps if you have to. Any progress is better than no progress
STOP comparing youself to others. You are not like other people. You are a unique human being. Do the best YOU can and to hell with what other people say! Alot of people don't measure up to others expectations, by this I mean what I expect of others and what they expect of me. Nobody's perfect
Nuff said!!!

May, 6 2016 at 9:56 am

BTW if I took to heart every inappropriate comment hurled at me by clients or others I would be a lot worse off than I already am. And yes Nerb I have learned over time to 'suck it up"! I was abused as a powerless child, I have a mental illness, etc boo hoo. I can choose to drown in self pity, OR NOT. Why do you suppose I chose to work for the governmental enforcement organization that I have for the last 35.
I am EXTREMELY grateful that they haven't let me go a long time ago because of my past behaviour. I have worked with a lot of jerks over the years but most of them are very caring individuals...

May, 5 2016 at 3:29 pm

Suicide and the selfishness stigma
The following are excerpts from another Healthy Place blog. The reason I am including them here because it illustrates my mixed feeling about this particular stigma
Andrew Carr says:
May 4, 2016 at 11:08 am
Suicide is selfish
I know it is painful to hear, but it’s true. Everyone today wants to blame their actions on anything other than themselves. “It’s a mental illness.” Can you really look at a 4 year old child and say “Your mother wasn’t being selfish when she killed herself, she was thinking of you!!!!”
Come on…
Laura Barton says:
May 4, 2016 at 11:28 am
Hi Andrew,
I see where you’re coming from, however I disagree. The brain can get sick just as easily as any other part of the body, and when the brain gets sick, it affects how we think, how we process information, and therefore how we deal with that illness. It’s not easy to understand from the outside, and it would be really difficult to explain to a child, for sure. Yes, we made the decision to take the action; by definition we are responsible for what we do. However, being responsible for that and selfishness are two different things. As I explained in my blog, people who experience suicidal ideation are not only thinking of themselves, which would connote selfishness, there is a consideration for most if not all outcomes of our actions, including how it will affect others. It’s not a logical thought process and it’s not a positive one, but overall suicidal ideation is without selfishness.
My comment:
I have mixed feelings about this subject…
As someone who has also attempted suicide I agree 100% with what Laura Barton is saying BUT I also agree with Andrew Carr. What DO you say to a 4 year old child? I was 4 years old when my biological mother shot herself. I ended up being adopted out and my 3 year old little sister ended up in foster care.
To a certain degree suicide IS selfish because it DOESN’T end the pain. It just transfers it to someone else!
I was also emotionally, physically and sexually abused my adopted parents (this was the cause of my first major depression that landed me in hospital) and my little sister is now an alcoholic and drug addict. We both suffer from abandonment issues! At $100 + an hour, counselling is NOT an affordable option. We are BOTH just struggling to survive. I have a job as a cashier and my sister has a job as a maid
Just because I am a high functioning bipolar DOESN'T mean I don't understand about suicidal ideation. I APPEAR fine Monday through Friday when I have to get up and go to work BUT many weekends I sit there alone, thoughts filled with suicidal ideation. In fact I have a morbid curiosity about it. I can spend hours and hours on the Internet studying the different methods of suicide and completely mezmerized watching actual videos of people in the act of committing suicide. BUT at some point I also realize that this is unhealthy and I make myself get out of the house (and away from my computer) and find someone to socialize with and if I can't find someone to socialize with I find a public place where alot of people gather to feel safe and less alone
I work as a clerk for a governmental enforcement agency. I have had many different jobs over the years with this organization. I remember a particular time when I worked in a warehouse (that was underground where I never saw the light of day) full of every imaginable weapon known to man. I had been working manicly for quite some time (surviving on only 3 hours of sleep a night) and then the depression set in and I could barely work at all. I was working alone late one night by myself trying my best to get caught up but I felt so overwhelmed that I just sat there for hours and sobbed as I stared at all the weapons around me that I could use to end my suffering. I didn't understand about bipolar back then. All I knew was that I was in trouble and I needed to get out of there quick. I went home and the next day I asked for a transfer to another job and thankfully I got it.
Now when I fall into a serious depression I know enough to ask for help. All I have to do is think about my mom and how her suicide affected me and my little sister

May, 5 2016 at 4:44 am

And I also wanted to add...
The retarded foster child who lived with us for a while came inches away from killing me as a baby. I was a colicky baby and she tried to smother me with a pillow. This coloured my perception of retarded people for many years. When I got older I learned she'd been permanently placed in a mental institution where my grandmother also worked. I read in the paper years later this institution was being investigated for numerous types of abuse. The building was later burned to the ground. Today I feel alot of compassion toward retarded people. My grandmother invited me to an open house at another simular institution where the parent of these children were supposed to come. I watched as this one little girl waited and waited for her parents to come and it broke my heart
My brother and I were both baptized along with this retarded foster child when I was a baby but when my parents divorced none of us went to church anymore. In fact there is NO ONE in my extended family who goes to church either. Do I still believe in God? Yes. Am I religious? No. I try my best to learn a little something from each life experience.
My grandfather's dad was an alcoholic and when he was 16 years old grandmpa kicked his dad out of the house. But when he was an adult my grandfather became a brewmaster for a large brewery where he worked until he retired. All three of grandpa's kids became alcoholics. Of the two who also worked for the same brewery they went on to become recovering alcoholics. Grandpa's third child became a psych nurse and is still an alcoholic
Alot of people get caught up in black and white thinking because of their own individual life experiences.
I have mixed feelings about a lot of things. My experience has been that there is much grey in the world. Life is full of many unpredictable twists and turns

May, 1 2016 at 7:27 pm

I also wanted to mention before I forget there are other members of my family who have also suffered stigma too
My stepfather only had a grade 5 education. He was thought to have a learning disability but back then there was no help available, such as teachers aides or support organizations to turn to. Instead he was made fun of for being "stupid"
My mother also lived on the street for a while. Her mother kicked her out because she was pregnant. There was no birth control pill back then and abortions were illegal
And let's not forget that homosexuality once considered to be a mental illness. it was also considered illegal and still is in some places
My grandmother and her siblings were all put in an orphanage until they reached legal age and then were released out into the street. There was no welfare back then. She turned to alcohol to cope
Both my aunts are nurses and they are both alcoholic, one is even a psych nurse.
How many of us are also guilty of having said something insensitive or inappropriate to any of the people I have mention here or above that have added to THEIR shame or pain
We are all complex human beings. While I realize that some things are within our control and others are not not everyone can afford counselling or was raised with perfect coping skills.
I will probably get attacked for saying this but I am going to say it anyway because I truly believe in my heart that just because you have a physical or mental illness it does NOT make your suffering any MORE deserving of care or compassion. It just doesn't!!!
Think about that the next time you decide to have a hissy fit about something someone said to YOU that you thought was unfair and hurt your feelings. Yes some of the things mentioned in Natasha's article are inapproriate and judgemental but how understanding and compassionate are YOU toward others
I don't care who you are we are ALL guilty at some time or other of making judgements about others without fully understanding their circumstances because we have not walked a mile in their shoes

May, 1 2016 at 11:32 am

And regarding the ridiculous comment from Nerb about the two people with a broken leg being EQUAL. Of course I'd feel MORE compassion for the one with two broken legs verses the one with only one broken leg but how stupid to even suggest that anyone would think that the one with only one broken leg would not be worthy of treatment or compassion also, Duh!
Of course their pain is real BUT so is others in this world (referring to the other people in my previous post). You are not the only one who faces stigma! Many of the people in my family face stigma. Do I show some of them more compassion than others. Your damn right I do but they are also part of my family and I care about them.
And since we are making comparisons about broken legs... Of couse when a broken leg "heals" it is really never quite the same again... but did you also know that sometimes when it " heals" it can even become physically stronger in that broken place? Just like medication for mental illness, it has the potential to make you stronger and better able to cope BUT you MAY never become your ideal self

May, 1 2016 at 9:54 am

Since we are on the topic of stigma I am interested on your thoughts and feelings about the following
Drug Addicts
Those on welfare
Street People
Those With A Criminal Background
Adopted, Iligitimate
Religious, Christians, Islamics Etc
Blacks, Aboriginals
Those with Aides or a sexually transmitted disease
Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Etc, Etc, Etc
The one thing they have in common is they ALL FACE Stigma!
I have a mental illness and so did my biolocal mother. I am considered obese but have also been bulimic. I have an uncle who was so obese he had to have an operation to lose weight
I have a cousin who is gay, a dad who was bisexual (whose ex parner died of aides) and I worked with a man who transitioned into a woman
My pdoc is a black, born in Nigeria. BTW the best pdoc I have had to date. My big brother is also a man of colour.
(I am Caucasian, Iligitimate and adopted). My grandmother had an an Iligitimate child back in the 1930's
We had a foster child who also lived with us for a time who was mentally retarded
Not one person in my generation or my parents generation went to university
I have a drug addict cousin who lived on the street for a while and is now struggling from MS. He is also part aboriginal
I also have a few criminals in my family
I have a dad and stepdad who were smokers and both died of lung cancer
I also have alcoholics in my family.
3 generations of men in my family worked for a brewery
I could go on and on but the point I'm trying to make is that while I have faced stigma so has many others in my life
Let me ask YOU have YOU ever stigmatized others? By this I mean others who DON'T have a mental illness...

April, 29 2016 at 3:01 pm

Well put Medea! I agree with you 100%

April, 27 2016 at 11:07 am

So, Nerb, your POV is that anything that anyone feels is valid because they feel it?
What a complete crock.
My two-year-old FEELS brutally mistreated when I don't let him stir the boiling pot of water. His feelings are true and yet absurd and invalid, and while I understand that he wants to help and can express sympathy, I'm not going to let him have his way because it wouldn't just be idiotic but criminally negligent.
Being a selfish piece of crap is ALWAYS, ALWAYS a choice unless you are in the midst of a psychotic break. I've got Bipolar I (and have had rapid cycling and mixed bipolar, too), yet miraculously, I've managed to be a better-than-decent parent, I haven't slept around, and I've created a "splurge system" to keep me from bankrupting us and keep our finances on track. I even make money, though not in a 9 to 5 job, and there are months together when I can't work at all.
Bipolar symptomology doesn't just strike out of the sky. By figuring out triggers and ways of blunting the disorder, I've learned to blunt most of the cycle. If I'd been a selfish, whiny little brat who decided that I was fine and everyone else was wrong, I'd be divorced and frankly most likely homeless right now.
Do you not understand the meaning of the word "cross to bear"? A "cross to bear" is an UNDESERVED burden. If someone says this, it's an expression of sympathy and a recognition that you did nothing to bring this on yourself.
The smartest doctors now recognize that the mental symptoms of bipolar disorder are a manifestation of chemical irregularities. That means that positive thinking and all that jazz might have very definite relationships to outcomes like whether or not you start screaming at loved ones, it will do nothing to address the root causes, which have to do with the reactions between the clock genes and the environment. Lithium works by altering the expression of the clock gene. Other approaches that address this also help to send bipolar disorder into regression or to blunt the effects of the next episode.
I have two choices. I can either decide that I'm a victim of my circumstances and do what I want when I'm having an episode and make little to no efforts to reduce the number or severity, or I can try my best to control my behavior during an episode by recognizing that my impulses are not fully rational and I strive to create, thought medication, lifestyle, and whatever other means I have, an environment in which bipolar episodes are going to be shorter, less frequent, and less severe.
As for people who say, "You'd be better off all those medications," well, no, duh. There is pretty much no medication except maybe Vitamin D that it wouldn't be better not to need. But we're dealing with the world as it is, not as it would be nice to be.
I have multiple chronic genetic diseases unrelated to my mental illness, yet in all those communities, people are overwhelmingly more determined to make a better go at life, despite conditions that they have absolutely no control over. Heck, the people I know with cystic fibrosis are just plain better human beings than most I know with bipolar. Being bipolar does NOT mean that you have no responsibility for your actions, your beliefs, your responses, or your feelings. But so many people want to use it as a free pass.
Ready to get your mind blown? I'd rather be ME, with bipolar and my extremely painful genetic conditions, than practically anyone else. Even when I was scared I'd spend most of the rest of my life in a wheelchair, I wanted to be me. And I was determined that that "me" would be a person who was charitable to well-meaning (not bone-selfish) people.
Yes, people do like to talk about things like diet and exercise. And guess what? Those things actually do make a TREMENDOUS difference. (For you people who are about to say, "But what if it were caaaaaaancer?????", guess what? Exercise also makes a tremendous difference in your chance of surviving cancer, too. The body isn't full of isolated systems. Who knew?) They aren't enough. But they do make a difference. And I'm willing to talk about how hard it is to get or stay lean with a mental disorder as much as I am about how much of a difference it makes--but that also it doesn't make everything magically go away, either.
Self-pity is destructive. Full stop. Self-pity is giving in. If you do, you freaking pick yourself up off the ground as soon as you can break out of it and tell yourself you won't indulge in it again. Because do you know what? There ARE always things to be grateful for. Even if it's just the fact that you can breathe.
For actual practical advice you can act on now: If you have non-24 circadian rhythm disorder or another sleep disorder, get diagnosed now. Get treated now. Be a freaking maniac about your sleep cycle. It DOES work to make bipolar much better--not just for me but for everyone with the disorder. Bipolar is inherently tied up in circadian rhythm disorders and it should be properly thought that the sleep disorders cause bipolar rather than the other way around, or that at the very least that there is a third cause that causes the sleep disorder that then causes or worsens the mood symptoms.…
But, you know, rather than learning about your condition and doing anything to manage it, you can just wallow in self-pity. Do that long enough, and you won't have to worry about what other people say to you.

April, 27 2016 at 10:18 am

What an impressively stupid article.
"Hey, diabetic, snap out of it."
How about, "Hey, type II diabetic, chances are your condition is entirely reversible and curable if you take some freaking responsibility for yourself and lose a substantial amount of weight"?
"Hey, epileptic, I know how you feel."
And what if someone else also has an intractable disease? They might have a VERY good idea of the general problems associated with a chronic disease and disease management while trying to get the best quality of life possible.
"Hey, paraplegic, so you can’t use your legs, isn’t that always the case?"
I've never heard anyone use the other "version" of this, either, so I really have no idea what you mean. But if you think they're saying, "look, if it's not going to change, you're going to have to make alterations in your life to be as happy and fulfilled as possible with the hand you were dealt," um, no kidding.
"Hey, person with multiple sclerosis, we create our own reality."
Hey, person with MS, your functioning is going to be dramatically impacted by your lifestyle choices and your faithfulness to your medication regime. Seriously, stop smoking now if you want to have your best shot at a decent life. If you've decided that you're doomed to a miserable life, it's going to be true no matter what.
No matter who you are, realizing that you're not a special snowflake especially picked out for suffering is a healthy point of view. And you can have that point of view even when struggling with mental illness.

April, 27 2016 at 7:33 am

I am really trying to see your points, but I don't understand how you can respond to this article so antilically. We all know dwelling on the negative does not help. The way you responded originally reminded me a lot of somebody who has never experienced any mental illness, telling me to "pull up my boot straps." It was insulting to me, and I gather from the other responses, I was not alone.
As for the comparison of being molested to being a prostitute, I still don't get it. I am sorry I ou lived through such horror, but you have to realize you were abused twice. Your mothers silence was equally abusive to you. I too was molested as a kid. I was threatened not to let anybody know the secret. I found out years later that I was not his only victim. At no point did any of us feel like a prostitute. We all felt powerless and singled out, because we didn't know the others were getting abused too, and yes we were victims. Comparing the two is like comparing apples and oranges. Like it or not, we were victims. WERE being the key word.
My to re-read the article. Try reading it with compassion and try focusing on the intent of the article. I believe the article was intended to let caregivers, loved ones, and even acquaintances know not to say certain things to the mentally ill, because they COULD make it worse. With all your own struggles, you of all people should understand others are at different points of "recovery" and the only thing we really need is compassion....we all know facts...we need compassion.

April, 27 2016 at 4:46 am

I was emotionally, physically and sexually abused by a parent. I was not shown compassion nor was my experience ever validated especially by the other parent who I expected better of since she had been molested by a stranger as a child on her way home from school one day. I learned the hard way not to expect support from others
The comparison I'm trying to make is that I was not shown compassion or validated as a victim of child abuse nor was I as a victim of mental illness. It's not right, it's not fair but it does no good to dwell on it. You will never change some people's mind no matter how hard you try.
To answer your question Nerb, to go from being a victim of child abuse, especially sexual abuse to becoming a prostitute is not as far a stretch as you might think. 85% of prostitutes were sexually abused at home. Why do you think they left home in the first place? And no they don't like being on the streets either but at least they get paid (sarcastic)
My private life is very different from my public life as a so called "high functioning bipolar". I am a good little actress. I have worked hard at honing my survival skills with minimal help from others. But surviving does not necessarily mean thriving. When I get home from work I am no different than most of you

April, 26 2016 at 7:49 pm

"When I was molested by a relative as a kid I had some understanding of what it was like to be a prostitute."
Could somebody please explain this statement to me? I was molested as a kid, by a relative, but it does not let me know what it's like to be a prostitute. I was molested, not sold. I am trying to understand the comparison.
The more I read some of the responses to this article, the more I realize that some people just don't get it. Renita, I don't know you, nor do you know me, but for being so high functioning, you really don't get it, and you are perpetuating the stigma.

Compassion Fatigue
April, 26 2016 at 3:37 pm

You can focus and ruminate on the negative if you want to. That is certainly your prerogative. Or you can choose to accept that you will never be able to change some people's attitudes or behaviour. Unfortunately stigma exists in this world. It's not right, it's unfair but what can you do?
For your own sake I suggest you try to surround yourself with kind caring individuals who are open to learning more about your mental illness and are willing to support you
But also bear in mind that most truly dedicated caregivers are prone to burn out and may at some point as compassion fatigue sets become less compassionate individuals...

April, 26 2016 at 8:28 am

Missy B you win for the best answer

April, 26 2016 at 8:26 am

Renita, I will admit that I have only read a little bit of your responses, because what I did read is incredibly offensive to me. You are responding to this article very analytically, when in fact the article is calling for sensitivity. People would never say to somebody with cancer, "I know you are feeling badly, but there are a lot of people suffering out there a lot worse than you."
Most of us know we can find somebody worse off than us, but that does not make our pain any less significant and valid. Renita, you seem to have a "suck it up" attitude. What you don't seem to have is compassion.
Why are these things offensive to us...
Snap out of it....if we could, we would. Telling us to snap out of it is equal to telling somebody with cancer to get rid of it.
There are a lot of people worse off than you....REALLY, I never thought of that. (Sarcasm)! This statement only makes me feel worse. "Apparently the way I feel doesn't matter because others feel worse." Equal have a broken leg, but because the guy next to you has two broken legs, you are unimportant, and we are not going to treat you.
I you have so many things to be thankful for, how can you be depressed? You are right, I do have a lot to be thankful for, unfortunately because I have a MENTAL ILLNESS I don't see them. I see nothingness.
You'd feel better if you got off those pills. UGGGGGGHHHHH! I have a hard enough time taking my meds, I don't need encouragement.
What doesn't kill us makes us stronger. (My all time favorite, NOT) look up suicidal ideation, and figure out on your own why this is the wrong thing to say!
I know. How you feel. NO YOU DONT! Unless you can read my mind, and you have lived through every moment of my life, you do not know how I, an individual, feels.
So you're depressed, aren't you always....I always have depression as that is an illness, but I do have times in my life that I experiance great joy and happiness.
This too shall pass. I want to know when. I have been doing this roller coaster ride for 30 years, when will it will it pass?
We all have our crosses to bear....nothing like telling somebody that they are being punished for some perceived wrong doing. "Hey cancer patients, yo deserve to have cancer because it's your cross to bear." (Another one of my favorites NOTTTTTTTT)!!!!!!!!

April, 24 2016 at 6:41 am

Karen's comment
"And, no I don’t have much to be thankful for anymore – you willing to give me something?"
My comment
How about being thankful that you aren't having to struggle with your mental illness while ALSO being forced to live on the street looking for a safe place to sleep each or having to sleep in some bed bug infested shelter with one eye open all night because somebody might steel what little you do have if you dare close your eyes. Or being on the verge of passing out because you haven't eating in a while because you can't afford to. Constantly wondering where your next meal is coming from? Or having to beg on the street for money (which can be both humiliating and humbling) or having to turn to prostitution to support yourself and your kid.
Life can be a bitch. Instead of looking for what someone else can GIVE YOU stop wining about how shitty your life is and try doing something nice for somebody else every now and then when and where you can. It don't cost YOU a thing!!! Maybe, just maybe they will respond in kind
You never know when something as simple as a kind word or gester or even just smiling at a stranger and saying hello will brighten someone's elses day who has been going through a very difficult time and is on the verge of giving up
Or you can choose to be the person who one day lashes out at someone else and ends up, metaphorically speaking, being the one who pulls the trigger of their loaded gun...

April, 20 2016 at 1:49 pm

I realize for many of us struggling with a mental illness every day is a bad day. I felt like that for a very long time...
After all the years you've been struggling with this disorder I'm sorry you haven't got the relief you deserve

April, 20 2016 at 9:22 am

Attacking me personally is uncalled for. No two people are alike. Our experiences are obviously different.
You're entitled to share your experience and I am entitled to share mine. It's a free country.
BTW my pdoc told me I'm high functioning but that doesn't make me any better or worse than anyone else, just different. Being "high functioning" comes with it's own set of problems. FYI I am also in my fifty's...
I'm sorry you're having a bad day..

April, 19 2016 at 9:37 am

Renita must "believe" she's a high functioning BiPolar (therefore better than everyone else). Good for her but, as someone who's been BiPolar since I was 10 (I'm 58 now), I can tell you - age brings surprises. Stability is not guaranteed and Karma is a Bitch! Mentally ill people in pain, in crisis; hurting don't want attention - they want RELIEF! Wishing, praying, hoping, pennies in the fountain don't work. Denial doesn't work, SHAME & STIGMA only increases their pain. Her arguments reek -
*No one is "worse" than me in MY body right now because there is ONLY ME in here.
*I don't want to focus on my mental state but, my brain does it regardless. And since no one wants to be around me, I've got tooooo much time to do it. And, no I don't have much to be thankful for anymore - you willing to give me something?
*This too shall pass? Cross to bear? What are you - some religious fanatic? Well, it's been 48 years and it's not passing and I'm not carrying a cross for anybody.
*The phrase "Create my own reality" refers to people calling us LIARS. They are saying our mental illness; hell - all mental illness DOES NOT EXIST! Now, why would they do that? 2 reasons - they don't like us or they're scared they'll get it. So, if they deny it exists - they can't catch it. Or, they really dislike you - they want you to feel WORSE. Wake up. There's nothing nice about it.
You Renita, if you truly want to understand the pain and anger of those of us out here who are greatly insulted by the crappy current state of Mental Health care and sting of Stigma first need to burst your pink unreality bubble and/or [moderated]. But, if you continue to feel you're soooo much better than us - fine - just stay off websites like this that you have no business being on.

April, 12 2016 at 11:02 am

Sometimes the best thing to say to someone is "I don't know exactly what to say, but I care."

March, 31 2016 at 11:52 am

Well said Renita! I try to respect people from all walks of life, with whatever hardships they are enduring, but when someone is not doing anything to try to help themselves, I get annoyed. There's a difference between feeling like you have a hard life when you've tried countless ways to make it better, and feeling like you have a hard life but doing almost nothing to improve yourself or your situation. Its the second type that grinds my gears.
And I agree that everyone needs to cut each other a little slack and try to understand each other, and that goes for me as well. There is no reason to be upset with a general part of the population if their only crime is naivete or ignorance. Again, most of the time their comments originate from a place of concern or compassion.
I try to respect others, but I find my respect waning towards those who whine and do nothing to even try to fix the problem, whether they are a stranger or my closest friend.
And don't get me wrong, I very well know I am not an expert at mental illness or the like, but I majored in psychology, and my psych teacher wanted to give us the best understanding on how people with mental illnesses felt. We would go to the various mental health clinics around town throughout the semester and speak with the counselors as well as some of the clients if they were comfortable talking with us about their experiences. We also wrote papers relating to biases pertaining to how the general public perceives those with mental illness. Our professor tried to inject as much understanding into our curriculum as she could so those of us who would become therapists or clinicians could go forth into our professions knowing how our clients would generally be feeling, that way we could gain a better client/counselor relationship with them, and in turn help them more than another counselor could. I may not know everything about mental illness, but that doesn't mean I don't have some understand of what someone may be going through. I chose not to be a counselor, which I think is good because of my bias towards those with mental illness who do nothing to try to help themselves, but I'm happy I can understand why the phrases stated in this article could be interpreted as insulting or condescending, but I want to say that they aren't (most of them arent , anyway). They are meant to show concern. If you don't like it, just politely tell the person how you felt about what was said. There is no reason to be offended if the person was well-meaning.

March, 30 2016 at 11:19 am

Thank you Shelly! I agree wholeheartedly with what you are saying. We all need to cut each other a little slack and do our best to be kind and understanding to one another. It's true that life is a two way street... but nobody is perfect. Life should not just revolve around one person just because they are ill especially when their own behaviour is less than stellar
Don't get me wrong I'm not discounting the fact that many people with a mental illness suffer deeply and face a great deal of stigma and maltreatment. But that doesn't excuse us from doing our part to work on our own mental health and wellness. We need to try our best to rise above our difficulties and surround ourselves with positive supportive people instead of letting others beat us down further
There will always be people is this world who are meant spirited and will never understand what we go through unless they have the misfortune of having to go through themselves. These are the ones that we are better off avoiding for our own mental health.
It all boils down to respect for one another which can be difficult sometimes when we feel our own needs are not being met

March, 30 2016 at 8:31 am

I admit, I do not have a mental illness, but my best friend does. He has major depression and anxiety, and was diagnoses with bipolar disorder. When he takes his medication properly and stays active, he becomes happier. If he stops taking his medication, even for a few days, he becomes unstable. I am finding it difficult to talk to him right now because of the extremely hurtful things he has said to me and about me the past few days. For years he has complained about reasons why his life sucks (not due to his illness, but life in general, such as his relationship to his father who I know cares for his son more than anything in the world), but he does not commit to trying to make his life better. I explained that if he would try to take his medication regularly and talk to family and friends or even a counselor when he is feeling depressed, his life could be better. But he refuses to listen, instead blaming his father and absent mother for all his problems. His father agreed with me, and I guess my friend is starting to... I don't know. He is back on his meds, but I can't forget the terrible things he said to me or the threats he made against my boyfriend and I while he was off them. Say what you want, but of you are mentally ill and you don't take meds properly or seek medical attention when you need it (counselling or otherwise) then quit getting huffy about some things people say. Medication sucks, I get it, but I'd rather take my meds than lose myself. And when people say those things, they usually mean well. Think about that. They aren't saying it maliciously. They are saying it because they are genuinely concerned about your well being and just want you to be happy.

Lisa May
March, 28 2016 at 5:20 am

Renita seems to be reinforcing stigma against herself :(

February, 3 2016 at 8:53 pm

want to respond to one comment about how we should be easy on those who say these things as they are not intended that way. I absolutely disagree. Bad things said with good intention is ok for children who do not know any better but not for adults and I am sorry, once you have been told its the worse thing you can say, then do not say it. Mental health is a relatively new topic being discussed and a new area in terms of what we know about it. Why allow for such mistakes and why not correct these things now and immediately. To let these statements and questions to be excused due to their good intent seems ridiculous and would mean a bigger battle later on trying to get rid of them. Why should someone who is sick have to then put in the work to deal with these comments when they have a big enough battle on their hands. The one thing people seem to not be able to get their heads around is the very definition of depression and common in a lot of MH disorders. The constantly feeling of guilt and shame for feeling the way they do when indeed others are worse off. Guilt/ shame for not being able to control it or get rid of it, It's the biggest fight of all Plus, if you are so mentally sound then surely you can process the fact that these comments do not help (either party) and think of something else to say or maybe even read a little and learn a bit about the latest research on mental health and either come up with something else to say or use one of the things " Good to say to .." suggested. These comments do not start conversations they stop them. They do not ask for information or make a person want to give up any information. These comments single-handedly halt any further understanding of what is happening to the person in question and prevent the person who wants to help from learning anything about how they can actually help. The first thing anyone needs to do in order to help, is to ask questions. Questions Questions Questions. Find out about someones particular case. Mental health is the mind, and brain. How different are we all in the world? Why is there or would there be just the one solution? cure? or fix? Plus we are not broken and if we have sought help and have a diagnosis then we are very aware of ourselves and have made a huge effort already to get better. Plus how is it that it is that everyone is a doctor and medical professional when it comes to MH? Seriously everyone is a MH pro. Now thats mental! I personally hate comments about treatment or pills. and have experienced people telling me my doctors are wrong and I am in the worst place and have repeatedly demanded I go seeI Dr. P, , Dr P being the very doctor I keep trying to tell them about! My point is Ask questions, like anything else if you get a rough response, do not take it personally, it might have been a shock, bad timing, or they are not ready just yet. Plus ask questions with the intent and purpose of listening to the answer and be willing to hear an answer different to the one you expect and even a different story and plan of action to that of your friend of a friend who had this and that sorted them out and therefore the cure. We learn in general and instinctively not to repeat things that create negative reactions. However sadly due to the past and present shame associated with MH, reactions have been muted out of fear. That fear as allowed for these comments to be OKed, as meant with good intention. No, rubbish, your good intention becomes null and void if you use any of these, so stop saying these things and manually set yourself a personal reminder not to if needs be!

December, 24 2015 at 2:26 am

Education is key...

December, 24 2015 at 1:39 am

I've also known people who are dying of cancer that've gone through some really awful treatments but they still try their best to think positive and not lose hope. Those people had little kids who depended on them and they wanted to set an example for their kids. All the while suffering from depression like us!
Focusing on the bad stuff only intensifies the depression is all I'm trying to say
And as for the hurtful things that people sometimes say, well they are simply ignorant of what we actually go through, PERIOD! I try my best to brush it off and not let it sink in. But yes it hurts especially from loved ones and even the medical profession who I expect better of...
People can only get to you if you let them. Stop giving your power away.

December, 23 2015 at 8:10 am

I have bipolar 1 so I do "get it". I just try not to focus on it and hold other people's feet to the fire because they don't understand it like I do... We are all different is one way or another...

December, 22 2015 at 8:03 pm

Oh, and by the way, the user "Renita" didn't get a word written in the article. There is always someone worse than us but that doesn't mean our disease is not devastating! No schizophrenia suddenly remits, and it certainly is not useful to focus at our problems 24/7... when you are completely free from a disease!!!! When you have a mental disease you spend every second feeling bad someway, maybe from it or maybe from the adverse effects from the medicine, so stop saying that kind of things because that is the same attitude a lot of parents take which leads the ill to suicide!

December, 22 2015 at 7:39 pm

The worst one:
"You're seeking attention" (And they ignore you for the rest of your disease until you suicide)
The worst ones:
"The real suicidal never say anything, he does it"
"Why don't you try psychotherapy"?
"It's all in your mind"
"You're lazy"

December, 17 2015 at 4:15 am

I agree with all of this. And while I get what others are saying about giving people around us a break, the point of this list was to show what can be harmful to say to someone with depression. It's almost like walking up to a person with an invisible illness and saying "but you don't look sick", when inside they are dealing with Lupus, Fibromyalgia, Cancer and even depression or anxiety.
Right now, my biggest issue I am dealing with is trying to explain to family that I can hear and see what I am saying and doing, but it feels almost like someone has taken over my body at certain times. I can't control it. I hear how stupid I sound or how much I have lost myself, but I can't control it. And what happens when I lose it? I have my whole family ganging up on me. I am 30 years old and I feel like I live at a high school and not at home with my parents. The moment anything happens with me, my mom has to call my grandma and gossip and tell her what happened. So if I call my grandma, just to have someone to talk to... She wont pick up. She will completely ignore me.
One thing that really pisses me off is that my grandparents tell me all the time I need to change my diet . They don't see that I eat pretty healthy for the most part. Then they will ask me if my daughter and I want to go with them to McDonalds. It makes me mad that they can sit there and criticize my eating habits and then turn around and take me to McDonalds. It also makes me upset that everyone else gets to go to a nice sit down restaurant when my grandparents take them out, but because I have a child, my choice is McDonalds.
Another thing that is really hurting me right now is that not only does my mom call my grandma to talk about me, but my mom , dad and brother all sit around and talk about me in front of my daughter.
And as someone else said , it hurts when people will tell you that if you were really suicidal, you would have already killed yourself and that you are just looking for attention. The reason I say that, is because although it might be true, at the same time, when I tell someone that I am suicidal, I am not looking for the kind of attention they think I am looking for. I am looking for help. Someone to understand how bad things are.

Kimba M. Wiggins
November, 8 2015 at 6:44 am

"You put yourself through this muck"
"Have you taken your meds?"
"You act like you're special"
I've had people say things so wrong, I can't even post them here. I've had mental illness since 1986 and I just turned 32 back in June 2015. It's really upsetting when people treat me like I don't matter, call me a "B" for being blunt and assume I'm "violent and dangerous" because I have schizoaffective disorder and bipolar disorder (a landlord refused to rent to me because of this). I've never been violent or dangerous, in fact my mother is both because she has mental illness and was never officially diagnosed. I got tired of being mistreated by her so I cut her off. If I told all of you my story I may trigger someone's symptoms and I cannot allow that to happen. So visit my blog and I will explain things in more detail. Some of those hurtful comments came from people who were also mentally ill :-(

heather baker
October, 9 2015 at 5:25 pm

Mental illness is like physical illness. As a nurse I can tell you, you will not recover from surgery if you don't get off your butt and move. You will not recover from infection if you don't take your prescribed medications and do the therapy prescribed. A diabetic must eat differently or they will remain ill. You will not recover from pneumonia if you don't deep breathe and cough. You will not get over virtually any illness without working at it. Mental illness is the same. Sit and think negative thoughts and don't do anything and you will remain ill. It is a choice to get better or not whether your illness is physical or mental.

Sandra Cobban
September, 29 2015 at 9:45 am

My sister would say when I was in depressed state why don't you take a bath?
Or you live like a mole,open the curtains in here?
Fucking Pollyanna - type remarks...useless only made things worse
I'd love to clean up,but no energy_depression.
I'm a big believer if you've not walked in someone's amount of quite
the same,now,is it?
Or let's go get a cup of tea,lets NOT
I feel UGLY when sick,sure don't wanna go out in public w dark circles ratty hair,unclean
( not my normal ) uggghhhh.
I say no,I'm too tired.
I usually turn my phone off
Unplug from society...
Try & sleep...either a lot or not enough......depends...varies.
As my body changes everyday that question changes as well everyday
As you age you just gather bits of info,fr Drs,Internet,other Bipolars while in hospital stays,
social workers,nurses....
You learn what works ( all different each person) for you on a trigger.
But,as an addict would say it's almost like relapse..
Doesn't always succeed
Then comes shitty part,disappointment frustration.
One of the HARDEST THINGS I DID ( BUT PROUDEST) was shortly after my diagnosis
Sometimes,I miss my Visa,but it's the disease I've no trust for.
So,I pay cash only.
Yes I got the fix me part too.
My sister is still fruitlessly attempting to!!
You are right.
We aren't like glass ornaments,broken!
Interesting articles on the fixer & someone with bipolar sorry lost link but good read.....
Sandra getting sleepy

Jim Buchanan
July, 25 2015 at 3:31 am

One of the most hurtful things I've been told, by a loved one btw, was, "You really weren't suicidal, if you had been, you would have succeeded. You just wanted attention"

Gail Feliciant
May, 20 2015 at 10:30 am

One of the ones that drives me nuts is when someone thinks that they can "fix" me, like I'm "broken" or something. I'm not broken. I am myself. Thanks for this blog!

May, 8 2015 at 9:06 am

What I find really annoying is
What about if you did some exorcise, got a little job, changed you diet, do meditation, wheat for a walk
And any other number of things to try and help.
I know they are just trying to help but I'm 45 I've been diagnosed for 25 years I'm intelligent well read and in relatively good control of my illness. What they are saying is actually really patronising.
What I want to here is good god well done for surviving that and not only surviving it but making the best of what is undoubtably the shitty end of the stick.followed buy a big sincere hug and a your amazing.

April, 17 2015 at 10:11 am

I understand 'mental health injuries' just fine, but I don't let the so called 'worse things to say to a mentally ill person' bother me too much because I realize most people in my life are generally well meaning. I also realize that they will never fully understand this illness because they don't live with it like I do so I don't hold their feet to the fire because of it
I've always been a very independent person, I never wanted to have to rely on anybody for anything, but this illness has definately taken it's toll. I'm fortunate that I've still managed to get by even after 3 involuntary hospitalizations. I'm considered high functioning which is both a blessing and a curse because more is expected from me. I'm very good at hiding the negative symtoms most of the time. Family members, friends and even co-workers have seen me at my worst and they have also seen me fight my way back to some semblance of health again. I'm fortunate that where I work there is an employee assistance program I also have an aunt who is a psych nurse and a very compassion best friend who has spent years looking after a mentally ill mother. I've learned the hard way not to burn them out with my neediness because they also have commitments of their own
I don't have kids or a husband to rely on and because of my unbridled manic spending sprees pre-diagnosis/medication I have been unable to afford my own place or even a car after working 33 years for the same agency
Just the other day I had the apartment manager slip a note under my door saying he'd need access to my suite the following day. I panicked. I didn't get it until early evening so I only had a limited amount of time to clean up the HUGE mess in my apartment. I didn't want to get chewed out by the apartment manager and I was too ashamed of the mess to ask anyone over to help out so I had to find a way to suck it up and do it myself. I was also suffering from a knee injury. After I was finished balling my eyes out wondering how I was ever going to get it done I made myself a very large pot of coffee and went at it cleaning my apartment. I washed 2 or 3 dishes then rested for exactly 15 minutes then forced myself to get up again and vacuum a small patch of floor then rested again for exactly 15 minutes and continued on with this process until early morning when I had to go to work. It wasn't cleaned to perfection but it passed the test. Then when I got home I immediately crashed on the couch because I didn't have the energy to make up the bed with sheets. This is just a very small glimmer of what I deal with every day

Matthew Hyde
April, 16 2015 at 5:38 am

Im unsure if some of the replys truly understand mental health injurys. Depression from bad things happening is just feeling sad(mostly). When Im severely depressed, you could give me £100000 and I would still be unable to get out of bed.

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