When someone you care about is experiencing some issues with their mental health, you may feel inclined to offer them some advice or wisdom. While you most likely have good intentions when doing this, sometimes your words may not convey the message that you were trying to convey. Sometimes the things you are saying may seem to clear and helpful to you, but the person you are saying them to may feel misunderstood, attacked, or deeply hurt.
With that in mind, here are some things to avoid saying when talking to someone who's struggling with their mental health.
1. Snap out of it
Everyone experiences a range of emotions, and some people can easily "snap out of it." But for people struggling with their mental health, they can't do that.
Healing and recovery takes a lot of hard work and saying this can make someone feel like their hard work or progress isn't good enough.
2. Try harder
This is kind of related to the last one. People struggling with their mental health sometimes have to try really hard to do basic things like getting out of bed, showering, doing work, etc, along with their healing. They are often trying as hard as they can, and sometimes their hardest might be what is barely trying for you. Mental health issues affect everyone in their own individual way.
3. But you don't look depressed/anxious/etc
Not everything is what it seems! There isn't a look for struggling with mental health. Saying this could make someone feel like they are making stuff up, even though they aren't.
4. Just pray about it
I'm not knocking prayer here. Praying is powerful for so many people. Feeling support from a higher power can be comforting for some.
Giving this advice alone can make someone feel like their issues are being minimized, like medical and psychological treatments are being ignored, or even like they are not healing because they are without adequate faith.
5. Cheer up
Mental health issues can and do suck so much joy out of a person's life. They can amplify almost every negative emotion that you experience. Even when we want to cheer up, sometimes we just can't.
6. It can't be that bad
This is one that really gets me going. Unless you are a mental health professional, what makes you worthy of determining how bad someone's struggles are?
Everyone handles and feels pain and struggles differently. What's easy for you could be something that pushes someone else to the end of their limit.
7. So many others have it worse than you
This one is very closely related to the last one. Saying this invalidates the person's feelings and trivializes their struggles.
Why do we have to measure struggle? In short, we don't. Just don't say this.
8. Who cares?
Saying this is just downright rude.
If you say this to someone who opened up to you about their mental health, you probably are now making ten times harder for them to open up to someone else. Because of the large stigma that still surrounds mental health, opening up is very, very hard.
9. Get busy, go distract yourself
For smaller issues, distractions may work, but with significant mental health issues, ignoring it doesn't make the problem go away, Instead of saying this, you could try offering to help them in some way.
10. Stop focusing on the bad stuff
Often, part of struggling with your mental health is focusing on the bad stuff. This is kind of like telling someone to snap out of it. If they could, they would!
11. It's all in your head
This perpetuates the stigma that mental health issues aren't real. It also just invalidates someone's entire struggle.
12. Let it go
This seems to be a common theme. If we could just let it go, we would!
13. This too shall pass
While things will probably get better for someone when they are healing, people who are struggling with their mental health may often feel very hopeless.
Not only is this dismissive of their feelings, but saying something like this could possibly convince the person to not seek any or additional help, which could potentially be very dangerous.
14. Suck it up
This should be a no-brainer, but there are still people who say this. It's trivializing and rude.
15. I don't understand
This isn't a completely bad thing to say. I think that it's OK to not exactly understand what someone is going through because our experiences as individuals are so unique. I think that it's OK for someone not super educated in mental health issues to not quite get it.
But none of these are excuses. It's vital that you make a genuine and compassionate attempt to understand without overstepping, even just a little bit. For a person who feels no one understands them, just that attempt at trying to can make the world of a difference.