Community Magazine

What Not to Say to a Person with a Mental Illness

By Gran13

orange flower

My son cringed when someone said; ‘For heaven’s sake find something to do with your time. You need a distraction.’BUT ignoring his illness did not help either. Nothing anyone said could make it disappear. He needed the right kind of attention.

‘Don’t you WANT to get better?’ was something we often heard. Of course he wanted to feel good again. As if he were not doing all he could.

When someone told him; ‘Your attitude needs to be changed drastically,’ it made him feel like a failure; unwanted.

‘Stop focusing on the negatives and try to see some positves,’ was not helpful either.

‘You’re getting the best medical attention you know!’ Your parents are doing all they can,’ made him feel as if he were not really trying to get better. He hated having a mental illness, distrusted the voices he heard, didn’t trust people either, especially not  doctors.’

‘Snap out of it. It’s enough already. Look how much time you’ve wasted being ill.’ As if a person is able to snap out of a mental illness!’

‘Aren’t you sick and tired of staying at home in bed? Find a job, dammit!’ ‘This made him feel like the worst kind of failure.’

‘It’s a mental illness that you have and  not a life sentence, you know. Do something about it. Surely you can beat it.’

So … what should people have said to my son? The best responses would possibly have been :-

I’m sorry to hear about your illness.

Is there anything I can do to help you?

I’ll see if I can ask around about a part time job for you.

Would you like to go out with me for a drive into the countryside one weekend? (Don’t just say that and not really mean it.)

Come over tonight and we can listen to music together or watch a movie.

 These positive statements could be very helpful and make the ill person feel more like everyone else.



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