We often read ways of trying to help those living with depression (which is great), but highlighting things NOT to say is just as important.
When you suffer from a mental health condition you can be very fragile and having someone make an insensitive remark can make things a whole lot worse. A little comment can be the icing on the cake to push you over the edge and a harsher one can stay with you for life. Making the extra effort to be careful with your words can make the world of difference to someone so don’t think it goes unnoticed or unappreciated!
1) “Just think, you’ve still got your health.”
OK, I’ve got my physical health and that’s a blessing, but your health is split into two – the physical AND the mental. I guess it’s because you can’t see mental health (as much, although let’s not forget facial expressions, body language, weight, sleeping patterns etc.) that people all so often forget the latter and think if you’re physically fit how could you not be happy? The fact is if you’re suffering from a mental health condition then no, you can’t say “you’ve still got your health.” Half of it is going through a tough time. Half of it is poorly. Half of it needs care and rest to ensure a recovery.
I remember the amount of times I would plan to go the gym and yet after getting ready and about to head out, I would end up sat on my bed in tears. Then by the time I had finished crying and got myself together, I either felt too exhausted to work out or the gym had shut!
Or imagine being perfectly physically fit, but your depression makes you wake up losing all motivation for a sport you once loved and played on a regular basis.
Mental health issues get in the way of the physical. They go hand in hand. So next time you’re thinking of saying to someone “chin up, you’ve still got your physical health”, remember the two work in conjunction.
2) “There are some people in the world with nothing.”
As someone who has lived with mental health issues for years, this one of the most common, yet hurtful and frustrating things I’ve had to hear on many occasions. People seem to miss the point here completely. The point is that DESPITE having food, a roof over your head, family, warmth, and wealth, you STILL feel depressed. You can’t help it and pointing out the obvious DOESN’T help. In fact, it can make you feel guilty and you should never feel guilty for having depression.
To me, it’s like saying you shouldn’t feel heartbroken when a relationship ends because at least you still have a home, a job and money. Or if you went to a salon and they messed up your hair, you shouldn’t be bothered because at least you have hair!
Some people think there are small issues and big issues, but I believe everything is relevant. So don’t make me feel guilty for being down when I have a chemical imbalance in my brain and have never encountered people in a significantly worse position than myself.
3) “You’re too sensitive.”
Number one, perhaps I am, but I don’t need you to remind me, make me feel like a drama queen, or guilty for having the feelings I do. Do you think I like being sensitive? Do you think it makes my life any easier?
Secondly, maybe I’m not. People who don’t have mental health issues are SO quick to put the blame on the depressed person. Maybe YOU’RE not considerate or sensitive enough. Why not take some responsibility for YOUR words and actions?
Thirdly, how is this comment possibly going to help? The answer? It’s not. It’s just going to make me feel worse. Wouldn’t it be more productive to pull me to one side and have a chat? Ask me why your comment upset me so hopefully you can see it from my point of view and educate yourself, or explain it from your point of view so we can meet in the middle? Don’t just put me down.
4) “People who commit suicide are selfish.”
I haven’t been directly on the receiving end so I guess my view is somewhat biased, but a slightly distant relative of mine committed suicide years ago which meant I never met her. I’m not angered by her decision though. I find it sad and have complete empathy.
I truly believe you are not here to live for anyone but yourself.
Surely it’s selfish to expect someone to stick around when they are so unbelievably miserable? This may seem controversial, but it’s incredibly controversial to a depressed person to hear someone say suicide is selfish. It’s their life, their decision.
We’ll all have our own stories about things people have said to us that have made things worse, but these are the ones that stand out to me the most.
I feel it important to discuss, to get our views out there and to educate people. It’s time for mental health to stop being a taboo subject.
Join in the discuss and help break the silence surrounding Mental Health by commenting below or tweeting us at Twitter @KettleMag.