Happy World Mental Health Day! Try and take part in the conversation today whether you struggle with mental health or not. It's important to learn! You will definitely feel some angst in this post because, as someone who struggles with anxiety, I’ve been told the wrong thing SO many times. But I’m writing this because it’s important to educate people on how individuals struggling with mental health feel, what to say, and what not to say. Be sure to read to the end to learn a few phrases that you SHOULD use.
1) It’s not a big deal.
This makes me so angry when I hear people say this to someone struggling. Sure, it may not be a big deal to you personally, but to the person struggling, in the moment, it is a big deal. By saying it’s not this is minimizing my feelings and makes me feel as if I’m in the wrong and my struggle does not matter.
2) Think positive. Be more optimistic.
I’ve heard this one so often and I don’t even know where to begin. If people could just turn off their anxiety and depression, I think they would. But it’s not that easy. I can’t just hit a switch and be happy.
3) Don’t worry about it.
Again. If I could flip the switch and turn it off, I would. Please don’t minimize my feelings.
4) Anxiety/depression isn’t real. It’s all in your head.
Okay I really don’t know where to start with this. So many people struggle from anxiety and depression, but I do get it. Some people might not understand because they haven’t experienced battling mental health for themselves or they don’t know anyone who is open about their struggle. This is another reason why conversation is so important to help people understand.
5) You don’t need medicine for depression/anxiety.
Well sometimes you do. Pill shaming is an issue. Don’t be part of pill shaming. Mental illness is real and sometimes requires medical help.
6) If you just…..
Oh I’ve heard this too many times. If you just eat healthier. If you just exercise more. If you just spend less time on social media. If you just started yoga. These ideas may help minimize the effects of anxiety/depression, but they’re not necessarily a solution. And by suggesting a large lifestyle change to someone already struggling, that can add onto their stress.
7) You don’t need a therapist. You have me.
First of all, I appreciate when friends try to act like a therapist and show that they are trying to be supportive. However, let’s be real. Our friends don’t know what they’re doing. This is one I often hear from parents too. Therapists are great because they are a neutral party. Assuming you find the right therapist, there is no judgement, they don’t turn the conversation back around on themselves or try to relate to your problems, but they listen and bring validation to your struggles. They help identify the root cause of the issue and help patients work through that. I was against talk therapy for a long time, but after finding the right therapist, I am forever changed!
8) Just breathe.
If it was just that simple I would. For me personally, an anxiety attack is way more than just breathing. It’s chest pain, sometimes stomach pain, racing thoughts, and to just breathe is a lot harder than you think.
What people without mental health issues typically don’t understand is that anxiety and depression can consume you. While it’s heavily mental, it can also cause physical pain and discomfort as well.
Instead tell your friend…
Your feelings are valid. What can I do for you? It’s okay not to be okay.
These phrases are all great because it helps reassure the individual struggling that they are not alone and that it is normal. What can I do for you specifically let’s the person know that you support them, but are not trying to push help onto them. Also, sometimes depending on the situation, it’s okay not to say anything at all, but just to be there in the moment for that person struggling.