Common Phrases Said to People With Mental Illness(es) and why They Could be Hurtful

Good morning Sunspots,

Has someone ever said something to you that makes you feel self conscious, belittled, or ashamed? I think everyone has felt this to one degree or another but there are certain things that people say to others with mental illnesses that can really hurt. I'm sure most people do not mean to be rude or hurtful and perhaps they simply do not know what they're saying or what it sounds like when it comes out. This week in particular has had a lot of these phrases in it so I decided it was time to bring some awareness. I have collected some common ones that I find hurtful/annoying and added in some extra things. I hope this helps you or someone you know understand that words are more powerful than you may think.

"You don't need to worry" (or any other variation of this, of course in a certain context)

It all depends on how these things are said. This could be said as a way of comforting someone or it could be that you don't understand. I have anxiety, I worry about a lot of things. Even things I like sometimes and while I have learned to control it there are still times when I lose it. If it's one of my good friends and this is followed by "I got your back" or something similar, it's cool. I'm not baffled because you are showing support. However, I usually get this when I am telling someone that I don't really feel like going out because my nervous system is all over the place and I can't commit. Then comes " don't worry, you'll be fine". Thanks. That did not magically erase my anxiety. So maybe before you say this think about possible reasons why the other person is worried. We are all different and what is small to you could be huge to them.

"Do you ever leave the house?"

This one gets me heated. The person who said this to me doe not know of any of my mental illnesses but somehow this still managed to make me extremely upset. I choose to be at home for many reasons and I don't need to justify or tell you about any of them. Just because you see pictures of me in sweatpants and my dog curled up in bed, it does not mean that I don't leave. It means you haven't seen me leave. In the last couple weeks it has been harder to motivate myself to get up and out but I am trying and when you say this I second guess my efforts. I've been implementing more outdoor adventures and I feel good about them so let me stay with my warm blankets when I feel introverted. I get good work done. What upsets me about this is that there are people with depression so deep that going to the kitchen is the best they can do that day. Don't poop on them. We are all trying our best in each moment. If you are worried about someone please be gentle and maybe offer an outing as a kind gesture. Maybe ask if they want to go grocery shopping or for a walk with you. Trust me this is not too small!

"Triggered"

Somehow, someway this has become slang for teenagers! And for the most part they are not actually being triggered by what they are talking about. I have heard this word used for things like slurpee machines being broken and then they all laugh. Do not use this word lightly, it is not a joke. When there are people with PTSD and phobias, there is no way this could be funny if you really knew what you are saying. When I talk to some of my friends and they say " I can't watch that, I think one of my triggers are in it" or on the flip side I say " That brings up bad memories for me please turn it off" we are not joking, we are not causing a scene, we are being honest and vulnerable. Please respect that.

"You are so fat/ skinny" "I wish I could look like you" "why are you so big/small?" or anything else that has to do with someone's body

These are tricky because in today's society many people have been programmed to think of these as compliments. Don't do it. Do not say it. You have no right to judge another body and you have no idea what they have been through. Eating disorders are nothing to be coveted and when you think you are telling someone they look good you are bringing more attention and shame to them. I repeat, calling me thin and skinny does NOT make me feel flattered, it makes me uncomfortable and no one likes to be picked apart so just think about it before you go out and say something like this. Find different ways to compliment your people. Telling them they have beautiful eyes, a cute bag or lush locks goes a long way.

"Cheer up"

Have you said this to someone with depression? You might want to ask them how it made them feel. For the most part, the people I know with depression that get told to "cheer up" eye roll so hard I can't even explain it. If we could turn on a light switch and be happy instantly I am pretty sure we would have thought of using it already. This is not the case though. Depression and other mood disorders are serious and they are not always easy to fight with. It's like having an elephant sit on you and someone saying " oh just move the elephant", thank you, I didn't think of doing that in the first place. Instead of commanding someone to feel better, ask "is there anything I can do?" or "do you need anything?", offer a hug, show them some funny gif etc. be the light and go in with no expectations. Enjoy their company.

Whoooaaa this one was a bit of a rant but kind of necessary. There is so much more to say about this but I'll leave it here. Remember the words you say hold so much meaning and it is really important to check your language and make sure you aren't causing unnecessary hurt to the people you love and if you do mess up, don't be afraid to apologize and call yourself out. It's a brave thing when we can admit our faults. Spread the love and do what you can to help out others!

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Love and Light,

Sahara