Don't Criticize Mental Health Coping Methods
Coping methods are personal choices, so I'm going to come out and say it: people need to stop criticizing others for how they cope with mental illness. As long as the coping methods aren't hurting the people who use them or others, I don't see the issue. Although I'm sure some are trying to joke around, when you ridicule the very tools people use to get through tough moments, it has a negative impact on those with mental illness and contributes to stigma.
How Criticizing Coping Methods Negatively Impacts People with Mental Illness
There are a number of coping methods people use for their mental illness. Personally, I have a litany of tactics I use when I'm struggling with feelings of depression and anxiety, such as putting in headphones and turning up the volume. As I wrote in my previous post, my coping mechanisms help me refocus, away from the self-stigmatizing thoughts. It's also beneficial in situations where I feel a lot of anxiety, such as loud, crowded spaces.
Having a toolbox of coping skills for times of need is something I recommend. Examples of coping methods include breathing exercises, playing with a toy, reading a book, coloring, or playing a game on a phone or tablet. As we're each unique, what methods we use varies from person to person.
I don't mind when people notice my coping methods. It's how they react that bothers me.
What I'm often met with are snarky remarks about how I'm anti-social or don't make an effort. People need to understand that criticizing how I'm dealing with my mental illnesses is not helpful. For some, I'm sure it leads to shame and embarrassment, making them feel even less inclined to be open about their struggles or seek help.
Our critics probably don't know any better, seeing these behaviors as anomalies that need commentary or a joke to make sense of. But ignorance as an explanation doesn't cut it for me. Ignorance is what feeds mental health stigma.
Ask Questions to Understand Coping Methods and Mental Illness
When you ask instead of criticize, people have the opportunity to be honest about what they're going through. Communication is one of the most important steps when it comes to recovery for mental illness and is a key in removing stigma. But keep this in mind: be respectful. Ask respectfully and, equally, respect if someone doesn't wish to explain their coping methods or mental health.
When we don't ask questions or acknowledge there might be more to why someone is behaving the way they are, we run the risk of feeding into the idea that people with mental illnesses are freaks, weirdos, rejects, or whatever other negative things people say (and we sometimes say to ourselves). Why not, instead, learn about why people use the coping methods they do and how you can support them? After all, it's compassion, not criticism, that makes a difference when it comes to mental health ("Use the Power of Compassion in Tough Times").
Barton, L. (2018, November 9). Don't Criticize Mental Health Coping Methods, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, July 14 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/survivingmentalhealthstigma/2018/11/dont-criticize-mental-health-coping-methods
Author: Laura Barton
This is such an important thing for people to realize. Just as everyone has their own stories, we also often have our own coping methods. What works for you might not work for others, but it's so important that we recognize the importance of them to others.
Thanks for your input, Lizanne! You’re exactly right. We have to be careful not to invalidate things simply because we don’t connect with it.