Wednesday, 15 July 2015

14 Things You Shouldn't Say to Someone With a Mental Illness

Living with any mental illness is hard; it's even harder when people make uneducated statements about it. Sure, it can be difficult to know what to say, and most of the time people do mean well, but here's a list of what not to say.

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"It's all in your head!"

Really? Is that why it's called a mental illness? Never would've guessed. That's not comforting, btw.

"You should be trying to get better."

Because trying various forms of therapy so isn't me trying to get better. 'Course not. It's just a weird hobby of mine, y'know? Psst, as a side-note: if it was that easy to get better, we'd all be better already.

"Hey, at least you get to miss school!"

Great. This is such a party. (I'd rather go to school than have a mental illness. I think most people would.)

"But you were fine a week ago."

Yeah, and now I'm not. Tough. All people struggling with their mental health go through patches that are rougher than others. It's like the development of a cold - you're fine, then gradually not fine, and then completely rubbish... except this repeats and repeats and repeats all year round.

"Can't you just try?"

Wow, I hadn't considered that before. You've cured me with your wisdom.

"Don't take medication, it'll change your personality."

Medication exists for a reason. Unless you're a medical professional, telling someone not to take their medication is dangerous.

"Don't take medication. There are so many side effects and you'll hate them all."

There are side-effects with pretty much everything. Also, this is the wrong thing to say to anyone with a mental illness, especially when they have anxiety. WHY ARE YOU GIVING ME SOMETHING ELSE TO WORRY ABOUT. WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU.

"Can I catch it?"

Um, no? Mental illness isn't contagious. *headdesk*

"You're missing out on life, you should get out more."

I'm fully aware that I'm completely missing my adolescence. We're all aware that our illnesses are making us miss out on things. Did you really need to reiterate that? Ouch.

"So you're, like, crazy now?"

"It's probably just a phase."

What you're really saying is that my feelings don't mean anything and aren't valid. Awesome. Thanks.

"How many fingers am I holding up?"

"So... you have a mental illness? Does that mean you're suicidal?"

I get why this can be an important question to ask but it's also inappropriate. Just because someone has a mental illness does not automatically mean they wish to die. Please don't treat them like psychology homework.

"Snap out of it."

Sure, let me just pencil that in. Hey, you have cancer? You don't need chemotherapy, you can just snap out of it, right? Cool.

At the end of the day, a person with mental illness is not a puzzle for you to work out. They're not there for your entertainment, or for you to use in your psychology exam, or for you to gossip about. They're just people working through some stuff. We're just people working through some stuff.

This post isn't meant to be authoritative on the subject. Some people might not mind some of these things being said to them - I can't speak for everyone! It's just here as a reminder that everyone has a lot going on behind what they necessarily show the world.

Try to understand us, do research of your own and, of course, don't be afraid to ask questions. But think before you speak. Be compassionate and mindful, and all will be well. :)

Are there any phrases you would add to the list?


  1. i agree your right some of these should never be said

  2. I've had at least three of those said to me and I absolutely hate it! This is so important for people to see because I know people don't do it intentionally but it hurts and makes it worse for the person.

    1. It really hurts and people have absolutely no idea what they're actually saying. :(

  3. This is a really great post, Amber.
    These are so true. I always think with the 'are you suicidal?' question, 1) they don't always go hand in hand as you say, and 2) seriously, if someone is, do you really think they feel comfortable answering that question? You don't go around asking cancer patients if they're about to die!
    Always enjoy seeing a little awareness spread around.
    Hope you're doing okay xxx

  4. Hello,
    I would like to let you know that this post is honestly so true. I suffer with depression & anxiety and I completely sympathise with you on this. I hope you're doing good.
    Love, Beth.x

    1. Phew, I was worried about the response it might get! I love your blog name, by the way. :)

  5. Hey Amber,
    idk if your remember me but you followed my blog 4 years ago (Jenny/Indigo) and I still have this liked on facebook, I suffer from borderline personality disorder and I get so many of these, you were spot on in your answers, so good to see people talking about mental illness it really angers me how taboo it is to certain people.
    All the best,
    Jen x

    1. Of course I remember you! I've often wondered what you were up to these days. Hope you're doing well :) x

  6. I've had people tell me repeatedly 'mind over matter, you just need to be positive and do this list of things to feel better'.

    Great post. Most thinking people don't make such ignorant comments, but those that do usually do it from some imaginary moral high ground.

    1. Thank you! I agree. It's like they think they're so good and wise that they can magically cure me with a silly comment. It sucks.

    "Can't you just try?" Is the worst thing anyone has ever said when it comes to both my depression and social/general anxiety. People asked that about me going into school when I was most ill - "no, because I can't physically bring myself to leave the house without having a panic attack"
    Also "Are you okay?" in situations where they'd know I wouldn't be. YOU KNOW WHAT'S WRONG

  8. I NEED to show this post to every single person. I have suffered from a panic attack and people were like "omg are you like ill?" or "Did your dad like die or something so you panicked" and I wanted to scream in their faces! What annoys me is my brother thinks that Zoella and other youtubers having anxiety is a publicity stunt to gain more subscribers, wtf these people are just sharing their experiences to help others!!
    Naomi@The Perks Of Being A Bookworm

    1. That's awful.
      How many people would PHYSCIALLY get hurt if they know they might not ever be "cured" just for a publicity stunt?!?!
      When people are physically hurt, people accept it. That's the problem with seeing--> believing. Mental illnesses are often invisible or ignored. You can see someone without a leg, but you can see someone who falls apart every now and then.

      Don't worry about your brother. He knows your situation but he still thinks that.
      Join a support group. Just talking about mental illnesses is spreading knowledge around.

    2. whoops. typo. Sorry!

      but you cannot see someone who falls apart every now and then. *

  9. I love this post, everything is exactly what people say who have no knowledge of mental illness. They think because they don't understand it they are aloud to be rude and condescending. It's disgusting. It hurts even more when some of the things they say are already running around in your own head. I'm always insecure about doing the right thing and trying as much as I can to get better, it isn't helpful when others ask it.
    As a side note I think you're really brave to be so open about it. I'm pretty closed off about my anxiety and other things and don't like to share much incase people judge me for it. Reading your blog is inspiring.
    (I hope that wasn't too cringey.)

  10. I've had these comments said to me before and it's so infuriating! I have an anxiety disorder and people can be so inconsiderate when it comes to it. I hate it when people say "There's nothing to be anxious about!" - I KNOW THAT, anxiety attacks can just happen even if you're not worried GOSH. And also when people say "You should try harder" - like, I'm trying really hard but recovery doesn't just happen at the drop of a hat.

    Brilliant post! <3

  11. Thank you so much for posting this. My two younger daughters, as well as myself, struggle with depression and PTSD. If only it were as easy as "snapping out of it". . .

  12. You know what's truly awful?
    When someone says, "OH. ME TOO. I have that too." once they find out what's "wrong" with you.
    I heard my friends say some of this stuff to other people, EVEN STRANGERS. D:
    My parents said some messed up crap about a distant relative who is bipolar and depressed.
    If people can't or wont help or try to learn, they should JUST STOP. Don't ask. Don't even pretend to care.


    "I have ADHD."
    idiot: Me too!!! Everyone has it nowadays! it's cuz of smartphones and stuff. BUT most college students take the meds to ace their tests.

    "I have depression."
    idiot: I'm so depressed today. I think I failed a test. Isn't that totally depressing? I know how you feel.
    "But I'm like that EVERYDAY!"
    idiot: well.... you'll have a good day soon.

    "I have a learning disability (ex: dxylexia)"
    idiot: when i read, it's hard for me to remember stuff too.

    "I have anxiety."
    idiot: The recession man..... It's so hard to find a job. We are all gonna retire at 70 or something at this rate.

    Generally, people don't know ANYTHING about mental illnesses.
    The stuff they do know? Movies, tv, news.
    When celebrities try to talk about their mental illnesses and personal issues, they get brushed off or laughed at. Everything is oversimplified. Alcoholics. Druggies. Killers. Terrorists. Crazies. Homeless people. PTSD. He/she Committed Suicide. Everything.

    People struggle in life or mess up because of their baggage. Just because you can't see it, it doesn't mean it's not there. People don't see cancer (unless it's skin cancer or something on the surface of our bodies). They usually see symptoms and signs of cancer, so they take cancer seriously. It should be the same with mental illnesses.

    I think all the commenters here just want to be taken seriously. It's already hard to go through life with all this baggage. Ignorant people and their thoughtless comments just make it even harder.

  13. What I love is that it's fine for people who don't have the issues to go round saying they are "so depressed" or "so OCD", but when I want to talk about my genuine issues, I'm not allowed to. Stigma, eh? But anyway. All these are so true! I've been subjected to a whole bunch of these over time for my various mental health issues, and every time, I have to try not to be sarky *sigh* x

  14. My husband tells me not to play the victim 😕

  15. Lighten up and you have a face like a slapped arse are also unhelpful things to say.