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10 Things not to say to someone struggling with mental illness.

10 Things not to say to someone struggling with mental illness.

Lockdown has worsened the situation of mental health. The mental health crisis created by mass-scale unemployment and loss of income, financial distress, isolation, loss of liberty, fear of infection and death, and concern regarding social isolation, etc., has further strengthened the grip of anxiety, depression, stress on people’s well being in India.

The lockdown has caused many negative changes in people’s lives. According to the ‘Rebooting 2020: A Story of COVID-19 and Shifting Perceptions’ survey by Mavericks India, sixty-one per cent of Indians are experiencing mental-health-related issues during this lockdown. This situation is not being given the attention and action it demands. A UN brief published by the UN describes how many people who were previously coping well are now finding it hard to deal with distresses. This is due to multiple stress factors that have emerged in the pandemic.

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The UN policy brief on COVID19 and mental health says that most countries spend only around 2% of their health budgets on mental health. Whereas, in India, the scenario is even worse. In 2020 the budget allocated for mental health is 0.05 per cent of the total healthcare budget.

Hence, in these difficult times, it is very important to understand the patient’s perspective and know-how to handle their episodes. Here are 10 things you should never address to a person with mental health issues.

” It’s all in your head”

While talking to a person with mental health disorders, practicalities can wait. You don’t have to slam their faces with direct judgments or concluding statements. As it might not be comforting to them. Mental health issues are caused by a set of complex factors such as brain chemistry. But they are surely not imaginary. That’s why statements like “It’s all in your head” are hurting.

This not only makes the patient feel taken for granted but also ignores the physical issues caused by mental health issues. A mental health patient may suffer from tiredness, a churning gut, muscle pains, disturbed sleep, and weight loss or gain.

“Come on, things could be worse!”

When you say this to a person suffering from mental health issues, a sense of guilt might arise. Naming more bad incidents that could have happened changes nothing but make the person feel guilty about sharing. For people who have never experienced a mental illness, it can be hard to understand that depression and other mental illnesses often have no trigger at all.

Comparing their current problems with other problems is like diminishing the importance or seriousness of their feelings. That is why consider their issues as big only as it is for them at least.

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“Snap out of it!”

A lot of people say this to the person suffering from mental health disorder that ‘Snap out of it”, “Let it go” etc. But the question is let go of what?. Mental illness is not a choice. Nobody wants to suffer with it. That is why statements like this are disrespectful and ignore the real issue. The patient may feel hurt and disappointed.

When it comes to mental health, no one can just snap out of it or let it go in a second. So it won’t help the other person, instead can be a great sense of demotivation for them.

“But you have a great life, you always seem so happy!”

There are no set criteria that a person who is suffering from any mental health disorder will have a specific sort of lifestyle or habit. Symptoms may vary. Even a confident and outgoing person, can suffer from a mental health issue. No tragedy needs to trigger any mental health issue. It can also occur without any specific trigger point.

For whatever reason, don’t tell someone they seem “fine” just because they’re looking fine to you. If they are coming up to you and trying to share, then they must not be okay.

“Have you tried chamomile tea?”

This is a positive intended comment made by a lot of people as a piece of advice. Though the intention is good, still no amount of specific tea can help the person in that current scenario. It may help in the long term, but just that is not enough to cut the experiences out.

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“Everyone is a little down/moody/OCD sometimes – it’s normal.”

Statements like this dilute the seriousness of the moment. It’s not normal. This will only make the patient feel distant and bad for sharing. It might also create a sense of insecurity. Don’t push away the patient by making them think that they are overanalyzing or feelings. Respect their efforts for coming out and trying to seek help.

Don’t compare their issues with someone else. If someone is constantly told that the way they’re feeling is “normal”, they’re much less likely to seek the treatment they need.

“This too shall pass.”

This is one of the most common things to say when someone feels bad. But when it comes to mental health, it’s not that appropriate as time is on something that can heal it in some cases. Some patients might need immediate medical assistance. This statement is said with positive intentions but might push the person to ignore his or her mental health for some more time.

Coming out and seeking help is difficult for the majority of people suffering from mental health. This might just push them away and make it harder for them to come out again.

“It’s all part of God’s plan.”

This statement is not correct due to variation in the belief systems of individuals. The person sharing their problem with you doesn’t need to believe in God as much as you do. So at that moment, statements like this are just not suitable.

Even if the person has certain believes, telling them this may push them towards feeling guilty or worried that God is somehow punishing or testing them for something they have done. It might sound odd, but at that time there is surely a rush of emotions in the patient’s mind. Hence, statements like this are not appropriate.

“Just try to be positive!”

Telling someone that treating mental health issues just by making some adjustments in the attitude or vision is an unrealistic expectation. Mental illnesses can be serious conditions, and often require treatment to match.

“Suicide is so selfish.”

This is most probably the last thing that a person suffering from any mental health disorder would like to hear. If a person is talking about suicide, surely their mental peace is destroyed, and all they should do is think about their well-being. Suicide is surely not justified, but at least telling them this when they are already down will make them feel worse. Understand where it is coming from.

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