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What Not to Say to Someone With a Mental Illness

As well-intentioned as one could be, someone who hasn’t experienced mental illness could accidentally say something that comes across as ableist. Even if it isn’t coming from a place of malice, these comments can still sting.

Which makes sense. The general public has pushed mental illness under-the-rug as hushed secret that no one should talk about. And others may have never given mental illness a second thought. How could they know any better?

I have definitely had my fair share of dealing with these comments, even from mental health professionals. As awful as that sounds.

So, if you are a non-mentally ill person, keep reading for what not to say to someone with mental illness. If you do deal with mental illness, keep on reading too for a good laugh at the ridiculousness we all have to put up with.



“I am so OCD”

This seems like a great place to start.

Non-mentally ill people steal and misuse our terminology. From trivializing our illnesses; “I’m so OCD” or, “the weather is so Bipolar”. To taking our symptoms like, panic attacks, triggered, breakdown, and trauma bonding, and using them incorrectly.

Other words or terms that already have negative connotations are also used, furthering the stigma of mental illness. Like calling someone mentally ill, psycho, or a psychopath, for example.

I don’t know who needs to hear this, but you did not have a panic attack over choosing which hair dye to use. (And no, dying your hair is not you having a breakdown, either.)

 

“Just try harder”

I dare you try that one on someone with a physical illness. That shit wouldn’t slide. And it shouldn’t for mental illnesses either.

 

“Get over it already”

Usually said in response to a traumatic incident or another event in someone’s life. Who are you to say whether someone should get over something or even dictate how much or little they should feel?

 

“Stop being dramatic” or “calm down”

I’ve had this said to me so many times in my life. Both as a way of purposely invalidating my feelings, but also as a lighthearted joke. And often times I had no idea what they were talking about. My reactions and emotions are normal, right?

Well, turns out I have Borderline Personality Disorder, meaning I feel and do everything in extremes. So that diagnosis gave me clarity as to why people have always said this to me. I do not experience emotion in the same way as other people. But, with that said, just because people feel things differently doesn’t mean you can invalidate others feelings.



“You’re overreacting”

Same goes as above, why police how people feel? Just because the situation is insignificant to you, doesn’t mean that’s the same to someone else. We all feel and experience things differently.

 

“It’s all in your head”

Obviously. That’s the point.

 

“Have you tried [insert pseudoscience/spiritual crap here]?”

I’ll say this, the most spiritual it has gotten when treating my mental illnesses was a failed attempt at mindfulness, thanks to Dialectical Behavior Therapy. But that is where I draw the line personally, LOL.

Same also goes for very simple “self-care” suggestions like, “make your bed everyday”, “drink tea”, or “do a face mask!”

If it’s not backed by science, don’t ask it.

Chakra alignment will not be-rid my personality disorder.



Hopefully you didn’t find this as relatable as it was for me writing it. If so, just know you are not alone in hearing these invalidating and offensive statements.

If you are someone who has said some of these statements in the past, that is okay. It is okay in that you now know better. And hopefully moving forward, you will learn and grow from this.

As someone mentally ill, it’s a lifetime commitment, (that I didn’t choose to sign up for), to call out ableist comments. Even if it comes from family, friends, and even mental health professionals.

If you feel comfortable, share below your experience dealing with ableist comments. Do you have any advice on how to handle it? I would love to hear your thoughts.

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What Not to Say to Someone With a Mental Illness

8 Comments

  1. This list made me so angry and I don’t even have a diagnosis 🤦🏼‍♀️. It drives me mad when people say things like try harder. Like no one has ever thought of that…x

    Sophie

    1. Thank you so much for taking the time to read this even though you don’t have a diagnosis! And yes, if only it were that simple, LOL. Thanks for stopping by!

    1. It’s super frustrating, but awareness with mental illness seems to be improving, luckily! Thanks for reading!

  2. OMG, I related to this SO much! Especially all of the “helpful” suggestions of how to be less anxious or depressed. Yoga, supplements, holistic pseudoscience, you name it! Ugh. That’s not going to help my brain from misfiring chemicals and information! Mental illness is just as valid as a physical illness, so why would you say these things to someone who’s suffering from, say, asthma? “It’s all in your head?” Yeah, right!

    Great post, as per usual! You totally told it was like is!!

    Emily | https://www.thatweirdgirllife.com

    1. I got a good laugh at imaging someone saying that to someone with asthma haha. Although their suggestions mean well (usually), it really is super frustrating to hear. And it definitely stems from people not viewing it like physical illnesses!

      Thanks for reading, Emily!

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