Today, 10th October is the World Mental Health Day. In the past when I was depressed, I used to consider these days as hypocritical and unnecessary. I didn’t understand why such an important issue was discussed just for a day or a week. It seemed hypocritical to preach how important mental health is and then belittle people on other days when they shared their personal problems. As time has passed, I have realized that this is sometimes necessary just as a reminder to make sure people continue to stay aware about the latest studies and discoveries on this issue. Since I have started trying to increase awareness about mental health myself, I would like to share 5 words or phrases that you should avoid as much as you can when talking to someone who says he/she is depressed. For the sake of simplicity, we will assume that the name of the person who claims to be depressed is X
‘Just’ as a word in most situations signifies that a person’s problems are smaller than they make it out to be. This makes X feel unwanted and makes him hate himself even more. Whenever you are talking to X, you must ensure that you avoid this word as much as you can. The context you use it in doesn’t make a lot of difference. Simply hearing this word from you may make them retreat and not talk to you again about this.
- ‘WHAT ABOUT’
People who are politically active know how prevalent this phrase is. It is being used across global politics to shut critics or questioners up. If you tell X about how many people have it much worse than him, it might make him not talk about his problems but that won’t be because he has solved them but because he feels like he doesn’t have a right to complain. It would make him suppress his feelings and they might end up exploding like a volcano which may lead to self harm, social isolation or even suicide. It is true that people are always going to have it worse but mental illnesses don’t discriminate by the social status of the person. It could strike anyone as quick as lightning.
X is probably aware that he might be crazy. He probably spends hours daily thinking he is good for nothing and that he is another crazy person who doesn’t belong in a society but rather in a mental asylum. It should be obvious why not to use this word but sometimes it still needs to be said in order to be understood. ‘Crazy’, ‘Mad’, ‘Psycho’ or any other variants of this, the conversation would be more fruitful if you don’t use these words.
Unfortunately, it is very common to hear someone say that mental illnesses are used just for attention. It is used so often that just hearing this word may make X think that you are insinuating that he is seeking attention. You may have meant it in some other way, or you some other context but a troubled mind will automatically start thinking that you are part of the majority that think he is seeking attention. From a trusted person, you could become another part of the heartless majority in a second.
- ‘CHOICE’/ ‘CHOOSE’
‘You need to choose the kind of life you want’
‘You need to make a choice right now.’
These and so many more sentences are used for mental illness sufferers like antibiotics for flu. Mental illness is not a choice and the things X is suffering from are not under his control. He wants this to stop as much as, if not more, than you. Simply ‘choosing’ is not going to solve everything. What you can use instead is ‘accept’ and help X ‘accept’ that he is suffering from a mental illness and hence needs help. Acceptance is a big step but that is not a choice.
These are the few words and phrases you should avoid while talking to X. There are many more things that you should avoid but I have listed out 5 big ones. If you don’t use these words, the chances of having a fruitful and helpful conversation go up multiple folds. It can happen to anyone. There is no one that is immune from having it. These are applicable for any mental illness so keep these in mind next time you talk to someone who needs it.