What not to say if your friend is suffering from poor mental health
When a friend is suffering from poor mental health, it can be difficult to know what to say for fear of saying the wrong thing.
But, while it can be really difficult when someone you care about is experiencing problems, there are some phrases that it is worth avoiding
“GET YOURSELF TOGETHER”
Depression, for example, is not something you can simply put a cast on and a few weeks later it has healed. Mental conditions are not someone’s fault and this statement implies that it is self-induced. It may also deepen the shame that they have if they’re struggling to come to terms with the fact they might have a mental illness.
“I UNDERSTAND, I HAVE BAD DAYS TOO”
Whilst this seems like an attempt to build a connection and make how they’re feeling more relatable, this type of statement actually minimises the pain that they’re suffering and makes it sound as though their current mental state is trivial.
“YOU JUST NEED TO STOP FEELING SORRY FOR YOURSELF”
If someone is struggling to verbalise any negative or hard to deal with feelings then this kind of statement will make them feel as though they are complaining and a burden to you. Throw away comments like this suggest that you’re not taking their emotions seriously – as though it is something that they can simply ‘get over’.
“WHAT HAVE YOU GOT TO BE DOWN ABOUT, YOU HAVE EVERYTHING A PERSON COULD WANT”
What’s important to remember here is that mental illness is not a choice. A person can have everything that would make someone else happy, but it makes no difference to how they feel – they are still feeling mentally unwell and this statement is unsupportive. A person may be successful on the outside, but no one knows what is happening on the inside.
“EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE FINE”
How do you know it is? Aside from the fact that this statement isn’t based on anything tangible, someone who is suffering from a mental health condition may struggle to see past the next hour. Asking them to look ahead is something that they may struggle to perceive.
Chloe Ward is Technician at Smart TMS, the UK’s leading mental health clinic specialising in Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation.