Okay, so there are articles upon articles on what NOT to say to someone with mental illness… and believe me, those articles have their place. Words have a way of impacting people. Some will even argue that words hurt more than physical confrontation. When someone is having a mental health crisis, a single word can build us up or make things worse. But what CAN you say to someone with mental illness?
- “I love you.” Mental illnesses have a way of making us believe negative things about ourselves. We’re too fat, we talk too much, we’re a burden… it can feel like the negative talk never ends. Hearing that we’re loved can help clear away the clouds.
- “How can I support you?” Now, with this one, we might not know the answer, and that might stress us out. I personally like to use the “support” instead of “help” because sometimes I don’t know how someone can help me, but I know they can support me by making me feel loved and like I’m not alone.
- “It’s not your fault.” AHH! I can’t tell you how many times we find ourselves self-blaming for what happens because of our mental illness. If we hurt you, or someone we love, as a side effect of our illness, we’re probably feeling pretty crappy. Letting us know that you’re aware that it’s not our fault can really help slow the spiral downwards.
- “I’m here for you.” Even if you think we already know it, remind us. Even if it’s a good day. Even if you told us yesterday. Reminding us that you’re here, and you’re not leaving, can help give us something to focus on and lift us up. Your support means more than you’ll ever know, even if we forget to thank you.
- “That is really sucky.” Empathy. Not sympathy. Don’t know the difference? Watch this video by Dr. Brene Brown.
- “You are so brave, beautiful, strong, inspirational, etc.” Let us know that we’ve got good qualities and that we’re total warriors. Make sure we know you’re grateful we’re in your life.
If you’re struggling with what to say, you can tell us. Half the time we might not even know what’s going on or what to say either. By telling us you don’t know what to say, it lets us know that you are thinking of us and wanting to say something to help us.
Being a support for someone with mental illness can be a difficult thing. And because we’re struggling, we might not always appreciate you like we should. Supporting us is a courageous thing to do. Thank you.