Letting Someone with Mental Illness Be Upset

March 31, 2016 Laura A. Barton

It's important to know when to let someone with a mental illness be upset. The phrase, “It’s okay not to be okay” is commonplace among the encouragements from the mental health community; and rightly so since the message is more than true and something that we all need to realize (With Mental Illness, It's Okay To Create Your Own Normal). Unfortunately, the phrase seems to stop there and “okay” means only certain types of okay. What I mean is, while people are happy to say that phrase and feel like they mean it, letting someone with a mental illness be upset isn't considered "okay."

Being upset is part of not being okay, but, in most cases, people are quick to jump to trying to comfort someone or even say that they should try to smile their sadness or anger away. My problem with that is, sometimes, we just need to be upset. Trying to brush it off and suppress it (wearing a mask of happiness) is incredibly unhealthy for us and can be even more detrimental to our mental well-being than the remedy a smile can cure.

Why Having a Mental Illness and Being Upset Bothers Others

Letting someone with mental illness be upset is uncomfortable for many people. How can you comfortably let someone with mental illness be upset? Read this.Seeing someone with a mental illness who is upset creates an uncomfortable situation. A lot of the time, we can’t understand why someone is upset so there are two routes we can seemingly take.

The first would be to completely minimize the issue to try to fix the situation, which is a huge no-no in and of itself because it completely disregards the fact that people have unique experiences. The second option is to try to get rid of the upset by transplanting happiness or a positivity on top of it, which also has its problems.

Disregarding or trying to eliminate a person’s feelings of being upset does nothing more than close some doors that the person might have opened up to you. Being upset – whether that’s sad, angry, or just overall unsettled in our emotions – is an exceptionally vulnerable experience, so opening up to someone about these feelings is twice the vulnerability. By telling someone they shouldn’t be upset, have no reason to be upset, or should otherwise try to look on the bright side, can breach the sense of trust that a person had in you that made them open up in the first place.

How to Help Someone with a Mental Illness Who’s Feeling Upset

  • Ask them how you can help. We each have our own needs and knowing what those are can really help someone.
  • Listen. If you’re too busy trying to figure out how to fix the situation, you’re not listening to what someone has to say (Effective Listening Skills).
  • Let the person with the mental illness feel the emotions. Denying emotions, as I said, does nothing productive. We need to feel the good, the bad, and all that’s in between in order to be healthy. Just let the person ride it out if needed.
  • Be there for him or her. A simple hug can go a long way or even just sitting beside a person in complete silence can offer some solace.

Using the above recommendations, you can find the best way to show your support.

Other Posts That Can Help:

You can find Laura on Twitter, Google+, Linkedin, Facebook and her blog; also see her book, Project Dermatillomania: The Stories Behind Our Scars.

APA Reference
Barton, L. (2016, March 31). Letting Someone with Mental Illness Be Upset, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 18 from

Author: Laura A. Barton

Laura A. Barton is a fiction and non-fiction writer from Ontario, Canada. Follow her writing journey and book love on Instagram, and Goodreads.

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