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Denial Keeps Those with a Mental Illness From Getting Better

Many people commented on the article I wrote about what a loved one can say to someone who has attempted suicide. One thing is clear from all the outreach – many people have attempted suicide and many people have survived. No one in this situation is alone.

But after a suicide attempt people invariably feel alone. They feel like a freak. They feel hurt and afraid. And when other people deny their suicide attempt, deny their pain, deny their mental illness, this makes things worse, not better.

Denial is keeping your loved one from getting better.

Head-in-the-Sand Denial Doesn’t Make Reality a Lie

Denying a problem doesn’t make it go away any more than putting your hands over your eyes makes the world disappear. The world is there as soon as you move your hands. And you can’t live with your hands over your eyes forever.

Denying your spouse hits you doesn’t make the bruises go away. Denying your dad is an alcoholic doesn’t stop him from passing out every night. Denying you had unprotected sex doesn’t make you any less pregnant.

Why Would I Deny a Mental Illness If There Were One?

People are inclined to deny mental illness exists, even after a suicide attempt. Denial by loved ones hurts the person with the mental illness. Read more.And one of the more devastating things to deny is a person’s illness. This could be any illness, but so often it’s a mental illness.

“Oh, you know Uncle Jim, he’s just odd (not schizophrenic).”

“Your sister Sally just gets upset sometimes (not depressed).”

And so on.

This denial may make it easier for the loved one, but saying the false words makes it infinitely harder for the person who is actually sick.

Why Does Mental Illness Denial Matter?

Isn’t it easier to not talk about it?


Well, yes. You can not talk about the elephant in the room but then you’ll never get rid of the elephant in the room.

The problem with denying illness, which includes illness symptoms like a suicide attempt, is illness needs treatment. And you can’t get treatment for something that doesn’t exist. If my arm isn’t broken, it doesn’t need a cast.

And when those around the mentally ill person say the illness doesn’t exist, it makes it that much harder for the person with the illness to come to terms with their illness, their symptoms and getting treatment. It hard enough to admit to yourself you’re sick, when everyone around you is saying you’re not, it nears impossible.

Living in denial means doing nothing about the illness. If doing nothing worked, the person wouldn’t be in pain. If doing nothing worked, people wouldn’t attempt suicide.

If denying mental illness worked, there would be no more mental illness.

Your Denial is Hurting the Ones You Love

Your denial is making it harder on the person who is sick. Your lies, told to selfishly maintain your own comfort, are making it more painful for the person you claim to care about. You’re hindering their getting treatment. You’re lessening the chances of their getting better.

It doesn’t matter if the person needs a psychiatrist, a therapist, a hospital or a hug; with everyone around them denying their needs, they can’t get any of it.

You can find Natasha Tracy on Facebook or GooglePlus or @Natasha_Tracy on Twitter.

Author: Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is a renowned speaker, award-winning advocate and author of Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar.

Find Natasha Tracy on her blog, Bipolar Burble, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.

23 thoughts on “Denial Keeps Those with a Mental Illness From Getting Better”

  1. Wow

    I see this with my husband’s family. His brother has been hospitalized 3 times. He’s bipolar and but but split personality. Unfortunately, the whole family denies this. He lost his marriage to hitting his wife. Also was convicted of drinking and driving. My husband paid over 50,000G’s with lawyer fees etc. He also supported him financially for 11 years. This 52 year old has lived with his parents the last 11 years since his marriage failed. He worked at my husbands office but was fired a few times and of course my husband rehired him.

    None of this has helped him. He quit over 7 months ago. All the other employees are happy that he is gone. I blame my hubby for just enabling for the last 11 years. He doesn’t take meds and is lucky to live with his aging parents.

    But the whole family won’t talk about it

    Tragic. I fear one day-since he has violent tendencies that he will kill my husband because deep down he hates my hubby. The other dumb sisters avoid the whole issue. But they also have their issues. What makes this sad is my mother in laws brother is the one who had the illness. Then she has a son and denies the illness but it’s from her family. It such a mess

  2. i was abused growing up and had depression symptoms since I was 13. I attempted suicide in my early 20s and my parents told me i should have just talked to them. They made fun of me and ignored me as I had an anxiety attack triggered by their verbal abuse a few years prior. If they had apologised for the abuse, validated my feelings and made an attempt to diagnose and treat my obvious illness, maybe we would still be in contact.

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