Are you struggling to know what not to say to someone with mental illness and what to say? In this article, we are going to discuss appropriate words to use when communicating with someone struggling with mental illness.
Mental health is an essential aspect of overall well-being, and as a society, we must approach conversations about mental illness with sensitivity and empathy. While many people genuinely want to support those dealing with mental health challenges, it’s essential to be mindful of our words and actions. In this blog post, we’ll explore some common phrases and misconceptions that can be harmful and counterproductive when communicating with someone facing mental health issues.
What Not to Say to Someone with Mental Illness
“Snap out of it” or “Just cheer up”:
One of the most common and detrimental misconceptions is the idea that individuals with mental illness can simply themselves out of their condition. Mental health is not a matter of choice, and phrases like “snap out of it” or “just cheer up” oversimplify complex issues and may contribute to feelings of guilt or inadequacy.
“It’s all in your head”:
While it is true that mental illness manifests in the brain, saying “it’s all in your head” dismisses the legitimacy of the person’s struggles. Mental health disorders are real medical conditions that require understanding, support, and sometimes professional intervention.
“I know exactly how you feel.”
Empathy is crucial, but claiming to understand someone’s experience completely can invalidate their unique struggles. Each person’s journey with mental illness is different, and assuming otherwise may hinder open and honest communication.
“You’re just seeking attention.”
Accusing someone of seeking attention can be damaging and perpetuates the stigma surrounding mental health. Many individuals dealing with mental illness may already feel isolated, and such statements can worsen their sense of shame or reluctance to seek help.
“Have you tried yoga, meditation, or exercise?”
While physical activity and mindfulness practices can indeed have positive effects on mental health, suggesting them as a cure-all oversimplifies the complexity of mental health issues. What works for one person may not work for another, and it’s important to recognize the need for individualized approaches to treatment.
“You should be grateful; others have it worse.”
Comparing one person’s struggles to another’s is not helpful and can minimize the validity of their emotions. Mental health challenges are subjective, and everyone deserves empathy and support regardless of external circumstances.
“It’s just a phase.”
Labeling mental health issues as a temporary phase overlooks the severity of the condition and may discourage individuals from seeking professional help. Mental health is a continuum, and dismissing it as a passing phase can be detrimental to long-term well-being.
How You Make a Mentally Ill Person Feel Better
Supporting someone with a mental illness requires patience, empathy, and a willingness to understand their unique experiences. While it’s essential to recognize that you can’t “fix” someone’s mental health, you can offer meaningful support. Here are some strategies to help make a mentally ill person feel better:
Listen Without Judgment.
Be a compassionate listener. Allow the person to express their thoughts and feelings without offering immediate solutions or judgment. Sometimes, just having someone to listen can be incredibly therapeutic.
Educate yourself and Understand the Specific Mental Health Condition
Take the time to educate yourself about the specific mental health condition the person is dealing with. Understanding their challenges and experiences can help you provide more informed and empathetic support.
Express Empathy and Understanding:
Let the person know that you care and are there for them. Use empathetic statements like “I can’t imagine how you feel, but I’m here for you” to convey your support without making assumptions about their experience.
Offer Practical Help:
People dealing with mental illness may struggle with daily tasks. Offer practical assistance, such as helping with chores, preparing meals, or running errands. Small gestures can make a big difference and reduce their stress.
Encourage Professional Help:
Suggesting professional help, such as therapy or counseling, is a constructive way to support someone with a mental illness. Offer to help them find a mental health professional or accompany them to appointments if they’re comfortable.
Recovery from mental illness is often a gradual process. Be patient and understanding as the person navigates their journey. Avoid pressuring them to “get better” quickly, and acknowledge their progress, no matter how small.
Avoid Stigmatizing Language:
Be mindful of the words you use and avoid stigmatizing language. Choose your words carefully to create a safe and nonjudgmental environment.
Celebrate Victories, No Matter How Small:
Recognize and celebrate any progress or achievements, no matter how minor. Positive reinforcement can contribute to a sense of accomplishment and boost the person’s self-esteem.
Communicating with Someone Who Has a Mental Illness
Starting a conversation with someone who has a mental illness requires sensitivity and empathy. Here are some tips to help you initiate a supportive and understanding dialogue:
Choose the Right Time and Place:
Find a quiet and private space where you both feel comfortable. Timing matters too; try to choose a moment when the person is likely to be more relaxed and receptive to conversation.
Express Concern in a Non-Confrontational Way:
Begin the conversation by expressing your care and concern. Use “I” statements to avoid sounding accusatory or judgmental. For example, say, “I’ve noticed you seem a bit down lately, and I wanted to check in to see how you’re feeling.”
Be Open and Non-Judgmental:
Create an open and non-judgmental atmosphere. Assure the person that you are there to listen without offering immediate solutions or judgment. Use empathetic phrases like “I’m here for you” to convey your support.
Ask Open-Ended Questions:
Encourage the person to share their thoughts and feelings by asking open-ended questions. Instead of asking, “Are you okay?” try asking, “Can you tell me how you’ve been feeling lately?” This allows for a more detailed and honest conversation.
Practice active listening by focusing on what the person is saying without interrupting. Show genuine interest in their experiences and emotions. Nodding, making eye contact, and using verbal cues like “I see” or “Tell me more” can convey your attentiveness.
Validate Their Feelings:
Acknowledge and validate the person’s feelings without minimizing or dismissing them. Phrases like “It sounds like you’re going through a challenging time” convey empathy and understanding.
Avoid Making Assumptions:
Please don’t assume you know everything about the person’s experience or the nature of their mental health condition. Instead, let them share their story at their own pace.
Share Your Own Experiences (if appropriate):
If you feel comfortable, you can share your experiences with challenges or difficulties. This can help create a sense of connection and reduce the stigma associated with mental health.
Offer Support and Resources:
Let the person know that you are there to support them. Encourage them to seek professional help if they haven’t already, and offer assistance in finding resources or information.
What Do You Say To Someone Who is Mentally Struggling
When someone is mentally struggling, it’s important to approach them with empathy, compassion, and a willingness to listen. Here are some supportive things you can say:
- “I’m here for you.”
Let the person know that you are available to talk or lend a listening ear whenever they need it.
- “You’re not alone in this.”
Assure them that they have your support and that others care about their well-being as well.
- “It’s okay to not be okay.”
Validate their feelings and reassure them that it’s acceptable to experience difficult emotions.
- “I care about you.”
Express your genuine concern and care for the person. Knowing that someone cares can provide a sense of comfort.
- “I may not fully understand, but I want to help.”
Acknowledge that you may not completely understand their experience but express your willingness to support them in any way you can.
- “You’re strong, and I believe in you.”
Offer words of encouragement to boost their confidence and reinforce their inner strength.
- “What can I do to support you right now?”
Allow them to share their needs and preferences. This shows that you are willing to help in ways that are meaningful to them.
- “Let’s talk about it if and when you’re ready.”
Offer an open invitation to discuss their struggles at a time that feels comfortable for them.
- “I’m not here to judge; I’m here to listen.”
Emphasize that your goal is to provide a non-judgmental space for them to express themselves without fear of criticism.
- “It’s okay to ask for help, and I’m here to support you in finding it.”
Encourage them to seek professional help if they haven’t already and offer assistance in finding resources.
- “Your feelings are valid.”
Remind them that their emotions are real and legitimate and that it’s okay to experience a range of feelings.
- “We’ll get through this together.”
Convey a sense of solidarity and commitment to supporting them throughout their journey.
Music has a powerful ability to connect with emotions, and individuals experiencing emotional distress may find solace and resonance in certain songs. It’s important to note that preferences can vary widely, and what resonates with one person may not resonate with another. Here are a few songs from various genres that have been known to connect with emotions and provide comfort:
- “Lean On Me” by Bill Withers:
This classic song emphasizes the importance of support and being there for each other during challenging times.
- “Hurt” by Johnny Cash (Nine Inch Nails cover):
Johnny Cash’s rendition of this Nine Inch Nails song carries a deep emotional weight, reflecting on personal struggles and pain.
- “The Night We Met” by Lord Huron:
Featured in the TV series “13 Reasons Why,” this song captures feelings of longing and introspection.
- “Someone You Loved” by Lewis Capaldi:
A poignant song about the pain of loss and heartbreak, which many people can relate to during difficult times.
- “Breathe Me” by Sia:
Sia’s hauntingly beautiful song touches on themes of vulnerability and the desire for understanding and connection.
- “Fix You” by Coldplay:
A song that offers a message of hope and support during challenging times, emphasizing the willingness to help someone heal.
- “Everybody Hurts” by R.E.M.:
This song encourages empathy and understanding, assuring listeners that everyone experiences pain and sorrow.
- “Chasing Cars” by Snow Patrol:
Known for its emotional simplicity, this song expresses a desire to be close to someone and share moments of stillness.
- “1-800-273-8255” by Logic ft. Alessia Cara & Khalid:
The title of this song is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, and its lyrics address themes of mental health, hope, and recovery.
- “Tears Dry On Their Own” by Amy Winehouse:
Amy Winehouse’s soulful voice captures the complexities of heartbreak and moving on from past relationships.
- “The A-Team” by Ed Sheeran:
Ed Sheeran’s song addresses issues of addiction and homelessness, offering a compassionate perspective.
- “Gone Away” by The Offspring:
A rock ballad exploring themes of loss and longing, which may resonate with those experiencing emotional turmoil.
Recommended Treatment for a Mentally Disturbed Person
I am not a mental health professional, and it’s important to note that specific treatment recommendations for individuals with mental health concerns should be made by qualified healthcare professionals. Treatment plans are highly individualized and depend on the specific diagnosis, severity of symptoms, and the person’s unique needs. Here are some general approaches and treatments that mental health professionals might consider:
A comprehensive psychiatric evaluation is often the first step to understanding the nature and extent of the mental health issue. This assessment may involve discussions about symptoms, personal history, and family history.
Therapy (Counseling or Psychotherapy):
Various forms of therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), or interpersonal therapy, can be effective in addressing a range of mental health conditions. Therapists work with individuals to explore and manage thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.
In some cases, medication may be prescribed to help manage symptoms. Psychiatrists, who are medical doctors specializing in mental health, can assess the need for medication and monitor its effectiveness.
Support groups provide a sense of community and understanding. They can be particularly beneficial for individuals dealing with similar mental health challenges, allowing for shared experiences and coping strategies.
Hospitalization or Intensive Treatment Programs:
In severe cases or during a crisis, hospitalization or participation in intensive treatment programs may be necessary to provide a structured and supportive environment.
Mindfulness and Relaxation Techniques:
Practices like mindfulness meditation, yoga, or deep-breathing exercises can help manage stress, anxiety, and depressive symptoms.
In some cases, involving family members in the therapy process can be beneficial, helping to improve communication and support systems.
Complementary and alternative therapies, such as acupuncture, massage, or art therapy, may be considered as part of a holistic approach to mental health.
Some individuals may benefit from case management services, which involve coordinating various aspects of care, including accessing resources, housing, and community support.
Online Resources for a Mentally Disturbed Person
If you or someone you know is dealing with mental health challenges, several reputable online resources provide information, support, and guidance. However, it’s essential to remember that online resources are not a substitute for professional help. If you or someone you know is in crisis, please seek immediate assistance from a mental health professional, a helpline, or emergency services. Here are some valuable online resources:
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI):
NAMI offers a wealth of information about various mental health conditions, treatment options, and resources for support. They also provide education and advocacy for individuals and families.
Mental Health America (MHA):
MHA provides a range of resources, including information on mental health conditions, screening tools, and advocacy initiatives. They also offer a helpline and support through their online community.
DailyLifeForce is a new holistic online counseling platform that connects individuals with licensed mental health professionals, coaches in different health fields for coaching programs, mentorship and digital courses that enable an individual to be financially stable and live a happy life through, video, phone, or chat.
Ripple is an interceptive tool designed to present a visual prompt when a person searches for harmful keywords or phrases relating to the topic of self-harm or suicide.
Psych Central is an online mental health resource providing articles, information on mental health conditions, quizzes, and a supportive online community.
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH):
NIMH is a government organization that offers information on mental health research, publications, and resources on various mental health conditions.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA):
SAMHSA provides resources, treatment locators, and publications related to mental health and substance use disorders.
Mind is a UK-based mental health charity offering information, support, and resources. Their website covers a wide range of mental health topics.
BetterHelp is an online counseling platform that connects individuals with licensed mental health professionals for therapy sessions through video, phone, or chat.
7 Cups provides online emotional support through trained listeners. Users can connect with listeners for free anonymous conversations.
Headspace offers guided meditation and mindfulness exercises that can be beneficial for managing stress and improving overall mental well-being.
Crisis Text Line:
Website: Crisis Text Line
Crisis Text Line provides free, 24/7 support via text message for those in crisis. Text “HELLO” to 741741 to connect with a trained crisis counselor.
Remember, these resources can provide valuable information and support, but they are not a substitute for professional mental health care. If you or someone you know is struggling, reach out to a mental health professional, counselor, or helpline in your country.