6 Things You Shouldn't Say To Someone With A Mental Illness

6 Things You Should NEVER Say To Someone With A Mental Illness

Don't act like their doctor, act like their friend.

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Mental illnesses don't discriminate, no matter your race, age, ethnicity, gender, socio-economic status. Approximately 1 in 4 people suffer from a mental illness each year worldwide, that's about 450 million people. There has been so much growth in the way society thinks and acts about mental illness, but it isn't a secret that there's still work that needs to be done.

I can't even count the number of times someone said something so insensitive to me about my mental illness and they genuinely thought they were helping. What you say to someone affects them more than you may realize, and while trying to help someone with a mental illness it's important to choose your words carefully.

Here are 6 things to NEVER say to someone with a mental illness, and some better alternatives:

1. "It could be worse/others have it worse than you."

Trust me, I know things could be worse. Things could always be worse, and I am very aware that others have a much harder life than me. But it's insensitive to say to someone that just because someone else has it worse that they have no right in feeling the pain that they feel. It's not fair to invalidate someone's mental illness/struggles that come with it just because others have it worse.

Try instead:

"I'm sorry you're going through this."

"I'm proud of you for continuing to push through these hard times."

2. "You need to change your attitude/stop focusing on all the negative."

This is one that always hurts me the most. I understand changing perspective can be helpful, but it sure as hell doesn't just magically make everything better. Telling someone they need to stop focusing on all the bad makes them feel even worse about themselves, that it is their fault for feeling the way that they do.

This makes people with mental illnesses feel like a failure and that they alone are the reason for their pain. MENTAL ILLNESS IS MORE THAN JUST A BAD MINDSET. Mental illnesses are chemical imbalances, they are ultimately a physiological issue that takes more to fix than just "changing your attitude."

Try instead:

"You seem to be having a difficult time and I just want you to know I'm here."

"You have so much going on, how can I help?"

3. "Just snap out of it."

This one fits into the two above, but I thought it would be worth mentioning since I hear this almost daily. I cannot just "snap out of it" when I'm having an episode. This is like telling someone with a broken bone or the flu to "just snap out of it, you're really bringing me down and frustrating me." I can't believe I still hear this, especially from people who claim to care about me. I understand it's hard to want to be having a good time and someone is suddenly in a bad mood, but that doesn't mean I get to just push my mental illness aside when it isn't a convenient time.

Do you think we like to have our mental illness hit during a social event, date, vacation, etc.? I wish I could just snap out of it, you have no idea how badly I wish I could just push it away when I wanted to. But this is insanely insensitive to expect someone to just "turn off" their mental illness because it's an inconvenient time for someone else.

Try instead:

"Is there anything I can get you or do for you?"

"Do you need some space or do you want me here?"

4. "Everyone is going through something."

Yes, as I stated 1 in 4 people suffer from a mental illness. I know how hard it is for everyone having to deal with something like this. But it's important to note that mental illness is never the same for any two people. It affects everyone differently.

Do you realize how selfish it is to try and discredit what someone else is feeling just because "everyone else has something going on?" I promise, I do realize that I'm not the only one who is plagued by mental illness, but that doesn't discredit mine and doesn't mean I'm not allowed to feel the way I do.

Try instead:

"You have a lot going on and you're doing great."

"You're so strong, I'm here for you."

5. "Have you tried working out, meditation, herbal tea, etc.?"

This one drives me insane for a few reasons. First, it suggests that by just changing your mindset and your activities that you're going to be able to fix every single thing. Let me tell you right now, that doesn't work for a lot (if not most) people. Natural remedies may help to some degree, but it's also important to note again that mental illness is different for everyone.

Some of these may help some people, but I can say for me personally none of this helps me significantly in any way. They may help, but are not automatic fixes. This discredits someone's mental illness by suggesting it's all in their head. The second thing that frustrates me about this is that it suggests that someone isn't seeking treatment.

Try instead:

"What works for you?"

"Is there anything that you've found that will help you in this moment?"

6. "I don't understand why you can't go to work/class?"

I've been getting this one a lot recently. "Nobody likes their job, you need to get over it and go to work." This is incredibly hurtful. What you see is someone who is smart and capable that appears to just be lazy. I hate every single time I call into work or don't go to class because I'm having a particularly bad mental health day. But nothing makes it worse than when friends for family berate you for not going, saying that you need to suck it up and go or that everyone has to do it even if they don't like it.

Again, mental illness is different for everyone. I applaud those with mental illnesses that are able to go to work or class every single day, and I wish I could, but my mental health will always come first. People need to realize that by harassing someone for not being able to handle the same things as them it either makes them feel like a failure or pushes them to go which in turns makes their mental illness that much worse.

Try instead:

"It's okay to take a day for yourself, your health matters."

"Don't push yourself, I want you to be healthy."

There are a million different things I could put on this list, but I hope these are a start for educating people what not to say to people with mental illnesses. I understand a lot of the time you're just trying to help, but it's important to realize that even with good intentions what you say often seems insensitive and hurts more than it helps.

My best advice: listen to what someone has to say, offer your help, and let them know you're there for them. Don't act like you know what's best for them, because you don't. Each mental illness is unique to each person, if something you've said to someone else worked for them it will not necessarily help someone else. Don't act like their doctor, act like their friend.

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To The Girl Struggling With Her Body Image

It's not about the size of your jeans, but the size of your heart, soul, and spirit.

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To the girl struggling with her body image,

You are more than the number on the scale. You are more than the number on your jeans and dresses. You are way more than the number of pounds you've gained or lost in whatever amount of time.

Weight is defined as the quantity of matter contained by a body or object. Weight does not define your self-worth, ambition or potential.

So many girls strive for validation through the various numbers associated with body image and it's really so sad seeing such beautiful, incredible women become discouraged over a few numbers that don't measure anything of true significance.

Yes, it is important to live a healthy lifestyle. Yes, it is important to take care of yourself. However, taking care of yourself includes your mental health as well. Neglecting either your mental or physical health will inflict problems on the other. It's very easy to get caught up in the idea that you're too heavy or too thin, which results in you possibly mistreating your body in some way.

Your body is your special, beautiful temple. It harbors all of your thoughts, feelings, characteristics, and ideas. Without it, you wouldn't be you. If you so wish to change it in a healthy way, then, by all means, go ahead. With that being said, don't make changes to impress or please someone else. You are the only person who is in charge of your body. No one else has the right to tell you whether or not your body is good enough. If you don't satisfy their standards, then you don't need that sort of negative influence in your life. That sort of manipulation and control is extremely unhealthy in its own regard.

Do not hold back on things you love or want to do because of how you interpret your body. You are enough. You are more than enough. You are more than your exterior. You are your inner being, your spirit. A smile and confidence are the most beautiful things you can wear.

It's not about the size of your jeans. It's about the size of your mind and heart. Embrace your body, observe and adore every curve, bone and stretch mark. Wear what makes you feel happy and comfortable in your own skin. Do your hair and makeup (or don't do either) to your heart's desire. Wear the crop top you've been eyeing up in that store window. Want a bikini body? Put a bikini on your body, simple.

So, as hard as it may seem sometimes, understand that the number on the scale doesn't measure the amount or significance of your contributions to this world. Just because that dress doesn't fit you like you had hoped doesn't mean that you're any less of a person.

Love your body, and your body will love you right back.

Cover Image Credit: Lauren Margliotti

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How To Stay Mentally Healthy In College

Our mental health is just as important as our physical health.

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Staying healthy in college seems really, really hard to do. Classes, friends, clubs, and the whole fact of living by yourself can create a lot of stress and anxiety. Most students, and people in general, don't really know how to deal with stress or how to take care of themselves mentally, leading to unhealthy behaviors physically and mentally. If you don't take care of your mental health, your physical health will suffer eventually. Here are a few tips and tricks to help take care of your mental health:

1. Eat a well-balanced diet

Eating fruits, vegetables, grains, and other healthy foods will help you feel more energized and motivated. Most people associate eating a balanced diet as beneficial for your physical health, but it is just as important for your mental health.

2. Keep a journal and write in it daily

Writing can be one of the most relaxing and stress-relieving things you can do for yourself. Writing down the issues you are struggling with or the problems you are encountering in your life on a piece of paper can help you relax and take a step back from that stress.

3. Do something that brings you joy

Take some time to do something that brings you joy and happiness! It can be really easy to forget about this when you are running around with your busy schedule but make some time to do something you enjoy. Whether it be dancing, writing, coloring, or even running, make some time for yourself.

4. Give thanks

Keeping a gratitude log — writing what brings you joy and happiness — helps to keep you positively minded, which leads to you becoming mentally healthy. Try to write down three things that brought you joy or made you smile from your day.

5. Smile and laugh

Experts say that smiling and laughing help improve your mental health. Not only is it fun to laugh, but laughing also helps you burn calories! There's a reason why smiling and laughing are often associated with happiness and joyful thoughts.

6. Exercise

Staying active and doing exercises that energize your body will help release endorphins and serotonin, which both act as a natural antidepressant. Keeping an active lifestyle will help you stay happy!

7. Talk out your problems

All of us deal with stress and have problems from time to time. The easiest and probably most beneficial way to deal with this stress and anxiety is to talk it out with a close friend, family member, or even a counselor.

8. See a counselor, peer mentor, or psychologist

Just like it was stated in the previous point, it is beneficial to talk out your problems with a counselor. We all have issues, and it is OK to ask for help.

Keeping up your mental health in college can be a struggle, and it may be hard to even admit you are not mentally healthy. This is OK; you are not alone. If you want to see a psychologist or would like to learn more about mental health, there are resources. You can also take a self-assessment of your mental health. If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide, please, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

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