May is known as Mental Health Awareness Month and Mental Health Awareness Week starts today. It is a chance for us to learn more about mental health and become more understanding to all those who suffer with a mental illness.
Mental health is one of the most misunderstood issues ever. One of the most common issues people have when discussing mental health is knowing what to say. Sometimes this leads to uncomfortable conversations in which you may feel you said the wrong thing or didn’t grasp how it may feel for somebody with a mental illness. People suffering with mental health issues have stated the most uncomfortable questions or statements that have been made to them and we want to make people aware incase you ever said or might think to say one of these things, that you shouldn’t.
Lifestyle reporter Hattie Gladwell created a hashtag #ThingsPeopleHaveSaidAboutMyMentalIllness which enabled many sufferers to come forward with inappropriate things people have said to them regarding their mental illnesses.
You shouldn’t kick yourself if you’ve said one of these things in the past, we’re sharing these so we can all learn more about mental health and begin to understand appropriate responses which aren’t hurtful or insensitive to people.
These are things you shouldn’t say to somebody with a mental illness.
Hattie Gladwell started off the conversation by tweeting her own experience;
Hattie’s experience outlines the lack of understanding some people have about mental health. Mental health isn’t a question of motivation; a common misconception is that people with mental health issues are weak, but it’s important to remember mental health issues are not a choice.
“I guess I just have more pressing things to be worried about”
It’s not okay to compare your experiences with somebody else’s that you know nothing about. There is a huge misconception that mental health anxiety is a ‘waste of time’ but really, who would choose to keep anxiety if they could switch it off?
The whole existence of mental health issues rests on the fact that sufferers can’t think positively as a result of their illness. So saying this is very insensitive.
“You have too much money to have anything wrong with you”
Mental illnesses do not discriminate and money does not fix an illness. The misconception that the illness shouldn’t affect you if you’re rich, have a family, friends etc. is a dangerous one that belittles somebody’s suffering.
“Stop putting this on, there is nothing wrong with you”
You should never tell someone that there isn’t something wrong with them when you don’t understand what they’re going through.
This is a incorrect stereotype of which is offensive and insensitive to someone’s suffering.
“It’s attention seeking”
It’s incredibly hurtful to tell a mental illness sufferer that they’re attention seeking. There is a huge stigma around mental health that keeps a lot of sufferers in the dark and afraid to share their experiences. We want this to go away and telling someone that they’re suffering because of narcissism or attention seeking is insensitive and shows a lack of understanding.
A common thing said to people with mental illnesses, that you may think is helpful, but rather defeats the point of understanding that even thinking that way isn’t going to switch it off. Sufferers still understand and empathise with other people’s situations but it does not mean that their issues will disappear because they acknowledge this. It is not as easy as that.
“You don’t look like you’re mentally ill”
This one goes back to saying; mental illnesses do not discriminate. Never judge someone’s appearance by their ‘suitability’ and ‘capability’ to be suffering. You may think this is a complement, but really it is belittling that person.
We understand that some of these comments are more clear than others of what not to say. But some of these, people say in an effort to help or support a mental illness sufferer but in actual fact, it can have the opposite effect. It’s about changing our mindsets and gaining deeper understanding as to what somebody may be going through. No one will ever be able to fully understand another person’s experiences and issues, but what we can do is be patient, understanding and listen. Let’s make a change.
For more information, go to https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/campaigns/mental-health-awareness-week