Sometimes it can be hard to know how to talk to people who struggle with mental illness, but here are a few things you definitely shouldn’t say.
This article was originally found on relevantmagazine.com and we thought it would be helpful to go through it. At the bottom of the article, you’ll find a link to the original post.
Our words are so important and often leave a lasting impression on someone long after we’ve said them. Usually, we say them with good intentions. And we typically don’t think twice after saying them. That’s why we need to be more careful, more intentional, with how we talk to everyone, but especially those who suffer from mental illness. Regardless of good intentions, words can stab like daggers.
If you know someone who is struggling with depression, anxiety or another mental disorder, here are a few things that you are strongly encouraged to never say again.
- just let it go; you’ll be fine.
Saying something like ‘snap out of it’ to someone would be like saying ‘just get over it’ to someone who has a heart condition. You just wouldn’t do that. So why is it okay to say it in this case? And when you do say it, it’s perceived as, “You aren’t positive enough, strong enough or spiritual enough.” It’s exactly what someone does not need to hear because those words are dangerous and destructive and lead to feelings of inadequacy.
Regardless of how you personally process pain, silence is never golden in this situation. Instead, you need to give love and care for this person, in whatever way that might look like. It’s important to recognize the situation. This person has come to you because they trust you and they’re taking time to be vulnerable with you. You don’t need to understand what they’re going through, but please acknowledge that you’ve heard them and that you value the friendship.
- you’re crazy.
In the original article, the writer stops there. Just no, don’t say that. And I agree, but in the culture we live in, those words pop up all too often. We need to learn how to redirect our vocabulary. Just because we might be afraid of mental illness, what it’s done to someone we know, or maybe we just don’t know how to deal with it, it doesn’t give us the right to slap those words in someone’s face.
- you need to pray and read the Bible more.
Take a moment to connect that to a physical ailment – it’d be like telling someone with diabetes that they’re not close enough to God and that’s why they’re suffering.
Yes, spiritual warfare is real. But the moment that we start to explain everything away as being spiritual and not get to the heart of it, we begin to fail.
The enemy uses that to his advantage and our weakness and if you suffer from depression or anxiety, there’s a good chance the enemy will torment you in it.
Are you possessed? No.
Are you normal? Yes.
Are you a human inflicted with normality just like everyone else? YES!
- other people have it worse.
Similar to #1, it sounds like you might not be ready to meet someone in their pain.
We need to know that every person’s story and struggle and pain is worth hearing and is valid. Why do we think it’s okay to compare each other’s suffering?
Would you tell that to someone who’s just been diagnosed with cancer? Would you want someone to tell you that when you’ve just lost someone you loved?
These are just a simple start in learning how we can be better in a situation we may not fully understand. Ask yourself, “What am I telling people who are suffering in a way that I personally don’t understand?” There isn’t a long list to go through to be able to learn how to never offend anyone ever again. But, there are ways that you can work towards being better in your relationships with those who are suffering from mental illness.
Simply be there. And listen. Don’t interrupt and don’t give suggestions, even if you think it might be coming from a good place.
- return their vulnerability with vulnerability.
There is the opportunity to tell them truthfully about when you went through a time of suffering and pain. Not to discount them, but to show them in a different way, that they’re not alone in their suffering.
- encourage them to talk with a therapist.
For someone to go to therapy or to even admit that they need it, takes so much courage. But, there’s still the stigma that they’ll be seen as ‘the crazy person.’ (There’s that word again – and we should truly do our best to avoid it).
Encouragement to seek help might be the best thing that you can do for someone. You may not know what to say or what to do, but by showing them that you support them in asking for help is huge.
- remind them of their worth.
LOVE and CARE.
It simply comes down to those two words. At the moment that they finish telling you about their mental illness, you have the opportunity to step in and remind them how much you love them. Just because they’re suffering, it doesn’t change the way that you see them.
- stand with them through the journey.
Too often we immediately think of what other people will think of us if we stand next to them in their journey. Let that go. Please stop thinking about what other people will think and open yourself up to the uncomfortable. Be willing to step into the uncomfortable to love them and learn from them.
The original article is available at relevantmagazine.com.
If you would like to listen more on mental health, indoubt aired Ep. 166: Mental Health (feat. Alison Stevens) on March 18, 2019, where we discuss a clinical perspective of mental health and steps to own your recovery.