It’s not always easy knowing the right thing to say when a friend or loved one is suffering with mental illness. Even neutral words can be misconstrued by someone who is feeling vulnerable, PsychCentral notes. Individuals may react differently at different times to well-meaning advice, but certain things are almost never appropriate to say to someone with mental illness. Let’s review these now to understand why certain statements can be counterproductive for those living with complex psychiatric disorders.
You should distract yourself.
Diversions typically are fleeting, and an individual suffering from mental illness still must deal with the same issues.
You just need to improve your attitude.
Reactions that some people may view as “overreacting” actually are hallmarks of certain conditions, including bipolar disorder.
Snap out of it.
People suffering from mental illness cannot simply change their mindsets and make their symptoms go away.
You have all the tools you need to get well.
Getting the right treatment is important for getting better. But this statement can come off as an accusation that an individual with mental illness doesn’t want to improve.
Anything that doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.
Some people do come out of devastating experiences as stronger people. But no one would make that statement to a grieving person, and they shouldn’t say it to someone suffering with mental illness, notes About Health.
Pray about it.
Many people believe that prayer can heal, and research even confirms it. But this statement can make mental illness sufferers feel that if they’re not getting better, they’re just not trying hard enough.
You’ll feel better if you exercise.
While it’s true that exercise releases feel-good endorphins, as Fitday notes, this is another statement implying that an individual with mental illness just needs to try harder.
It’s just temporary.
This statement is meant to be comforting, but the fact is that no one knows when, if ever, an individual’s symptoms will subside.
We create our own reality.
Some successful people certainly are self-made, but there are problems that an individual cannot control — like mental illness.
You have to want to get better.
Most people do not enjoy suffering, and individuals with mental illness likely would snap their fingers and get better if they could. Unfortunately, it’s not so simple.
Why can’t you work?
People may ask this question of an individual who seems healthy despite a mental illness. It can imply that the sufferer is lazy or is making excuses.
Any negative or clearly hurtful words, even if used in a jesting manner, simply should not be said.
My friend/cousin/brother has the same thing.
While a statement like this usually is made as a way of trying to relate, someone suffering with mental illness may take it as belittling their own struggles.
You seem totally normal.
What is normal? This statement is intended as a compliment, but an individual struggling with a mental illness likely won’t take it that way.
So what should a well-meaning individual say to a friend or loved one who’s suffering? “Please let me know if I can do anything for you” works just fine. One of the most obvious and unfortunate responses to people with cognitive and emotional disabilities is that other people simply do not want to be around them. This often includes family and friends. By providing real life treatment experiences, we build appropriate interpersonal skills so our residents can rebuild and establish new relationships with family and friends.
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The Villa Orlando and Pasadena Villa’s Smoky Mountain Lodge are adult intensive psychiatric residential treatment centers for clients with serious mental illnesses. Our outpatient center is located in Raleigh, North Carolina. We also provide other individualized therapy programs, step-down residential programs, and less intensive mental health services, such as Community Residential Homes, Supportive Housing, Day Treatment Programs and Life Skills training. If you or someone you know may need counseling on mental health services, please fill out our contact form or call us at 877-845-5235 for more information.
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