#LETSTALK: WHAT NOT TO SAY TO SOMEONE WITH A MENTAL ILLNESS

To say that 2020 has been unexpected would be the understatement du jour.

The year has unfolded quickly, and before we knew it, we were thrust into a new kind of ‘normal’. A time where we went from soaking in the summer sun, to soaking in the news and the new around us.

For many of us, that meant adjusting to a new routine, or readjusting to not having one at all anymore. Days shifted from hearing the birds chirp their way from branch to branch, to knowing its morning with the chirps outside your window. This time inside kept us safe from the physical dangers that our reality now poses to us. But for many, it has only unearthed and pushed to the fore their mental agony.

Human beings are after all, social animals. By virtue, it implies the need for interaction, affection, discussion and many more ‘tions’ that makes us feel, well, human. If the recent turn of events are anything to go by, it’s that mental health can crumble in the face of loneliness. It’s important to talk. Whether a friend, an acquaintance, a stranger, family, or even your foe. Emptying your cup is important, so you aren’t consumed by emotions that may swirl in your mind and fester.

 

Enter, you.

Sometimes, it is difficult to find the right words to say. More often than not, despite a lens of good and clean intentions, through our own personal experiences that inform our perspective, we do more harm than good. These thoughts, or comments may seem passing in nature – to be nonchalant and calming, but in essence, too many times, they end up sounding insensitive. A usual suspect here being the difference in experiences, reactions, differing wavelengths and emotional quotient, a lack of illness, or even simply, by not acknowledging the weight of the situation.

As much as we would like to be there for those we love, sometimes, it’s necessary to identify what not to say, and as opposed to what do we say. Because truth be told, there are things that are just better left unsaid.

HERE ARE THE 5 MOST AVOIDABLE THINGS; WE THINK YOU SHOULD KEEP OUT OF A CONVERSATION, AND THE REASONS WHY.

 

1. “YOU’RE JUST OVERTHINKING!”

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An individual going through mental trauma has often replayed traumatic, or triggering incidents in their mind multiple times. They go over all the minute details with a fine-tooth comb. They dissect and analyze the ‘what if’s’ and ‘I should’s’ of past events, now well beyond their control. The future also brings with it such feelings when one treads into unchartered territories. This brings about a very conscious behavior, where one feels acutely aware of their surroundings, emotions and situations. To them, overthinking represents the reality of the situation in its worst-case scenario. There is a dire need for preparation and avoidance of times they would not want to relive again, or future events that cause uncertainty, anxiety or panic. Often, this leaves individuals worried and frantic. Asking someone to not overthink does not help.

2. “IT’S ALL IN YOUR HEAD.”

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Well for starters, off course, they’re in your head. TECHNICALLY. The situations, experiences and quite often, complex brain chemistry has led it to becoming a mainstay in the mind space. While it may not be tangible to you, the emotions and especially manifestations, of these emotions are very real. When you offer this thought, the suggestion of it being imaginary and out-of-proportion is not only hurtful, but also insensitive to the struggles of an individual. Some of the struggles also pop up in a way physical manner – from lethargy, nausea, stomachache, weight loss, disturbed sleep, and many more life-disrupting changes amongst others.

3. “JUST BE POSITIVE.”

Positive
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Our emotions are kaleidoscopic. Sometimes twisted, sometimes different but always changing. The suggestion that wearing a simple and easy attitude, could act as an emotional Band-Aid, often trivializes the agony of the situation to the individual. Moreover, in many situations, the feeling of positivity is the exact pursuit, and what they may be looking for. Not only does the comment serve as a constant reminder of existing negativity, but also downplays the severity of what one might be going through. Many cases are complicated, and might require medical intervention. Advising them to “just be positive”, may prevent them from reach out, or asking for help – that is exactly what they need.

4. “DON’T BE ANXIOUS.”

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Nobody chooses to be anxious. Individuals who face constant worrying would prefer not to, all the time. However, this often proves to be tough when their mind is constantly racing, and choosing the ‘fight or flight’ mode. When it comes to mental illness, you can’t just flick a switch and ‘snap out of it’. While it does take time, it often also takes professional medical treatment, and the love and care of a non-judgmental support network.

5. “YOU ATTRACT WHAT YOU FEEL.”

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Remember – mental health is often not a choice. If the choice existed, most of us would choose to be in a permanent state of sunshine and bliss. However, life can be tougher for some. That doesn’t mean they are not strong, or capable. The way we perceive situations and react to them is purely subjective. The result of these fragile states of mind, are often caused by experiences that were not in the favour of such individuals, or beyond their control.

The suggestion that ones’ outcomes and circumstances are indicated by the state of their mind is not only ludicrous but also purely judgmental.

 

HERE’S WHAT YOU CAN SAY TO MAKE THEM FEEL BETTER

It’s not always easy to know what to say in situations like these. They can be difficult to navigate. However, you can be there for your loved one by simply letting them know it. You can express that through these suggestion,

“I am here for you.”

“I am listening. Talk to me.”

“What can I do to make you feel better?”

“Thank you for sharing and trusting me.”

“I am proud of you for getting the help you need”.

“I love you.”

“You are important.”

“What can I do to help?”

“You must be going through a difficult time, but you will get through it.”

“Would you like to talk about what you’re going through? If not, who are you comfortable talking to?”

“Have you spoken to your doctor or therapist about how you are feeling?”

 

Mental health is difficult, but it can definitely be treated. Encourage your loved one to visit a medical professional to seek the help they require, or let them know they are not alone.

If you need to talk to someone about mental illness or a crisis in your life, please consider calling AASRA – Suicide prevention and Counseling NGO at 91-9820466726 or email them at aasrahelpline@yahoo.com.

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