The percentage of people suffering from mental health illnesses are on the rise. There are probably a few people in your life that you know are suffering from some sort of mental health issue. Sometimes, it can be confusing or hard to know what to say to them, or if you should say anything at all.
On the other side, I have had many clients come into my office and talk about how a close friend or family member said something to them about their mental health issue and was inconsiderate, mean, or not understanding. Today I want to talk about what is good and appropriate to say to someone with a mental health illness, and what you should avoid doing or saying.
What Not To Say
Let’s start with what not to say, and things to avoid saying when talking to someone who is suffering from a mental health illness. One of the most common responses my clients will tell me that they get from family or close friends is the, “Just get over it” or, “Forget about it and move on.” All these statements might be seen as advice, but for someone who is suffering from a mental illness, it can be demeaning, inconsiderate, and can show that you don’t understand what they are going through and don’t want to attempt to understand what they are going through.
Another common response clients talk about getting, especially in a Christian setting is, “Just pray about” or, “Ask God for healing.” Most of the time, Christian’s who are suffering from a mental illness are already praying to God and asking for healing, so a comment like that can really irritate and aggravate someone dealing with a mental illness.
Sometimes, the best response to someone who is suffering from a mental illness is to just listen to them. Listening and making sure someone feels heard can go a long way towards being helpful and showing someone that you care. It’s hard to expect that you know how to respond, especially if you do not know much or understand much about mental illness.
Even asking someone if they can help you understand more about what they are experiencing can show support and that you are trying to understand what they are going through. Of course, the best thing you can do is to politely suggest to them that they seek out counseling or a mental health provider to help them. This isn’t because you don’t want to listen, but because you care about them and know that you are not fully equipped to help them.
If you or someone you know in your life are struggling with a mental illness, one of the best things you can do is to educate yourself more about what they are experiencing and going through. The more you know and understand, the more support you can show and give to those people in your life.
Sometimes speaking to a therapist can be really beneficial in learning more about your loved one or friend who is struggling. We would love to help support you or your loved one through this process. Reach out to us here at Optimum Joy if you have any questions regarding mental health or seeking to see a therapist.
Written by therapist Alex Parlette