Choose Your Words Correctly

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Shazneen Mistry

We never know what a person is going through, so we must choose, our words before we speak them, especially while talking to someone who is battling with mental illness. Mental illness is not something that one should take likely or make fun of. It is something very serious and can be quite dangerous if not treated in time. A person dealing with mental illness is already going through a tough time trying to understand their feelings and emotions, a hurtful sentence can stop them from expressing themselves and their problems, which wouldn’t be good for them.

Mental health issues in India are looked down upon as a stigma and someone fighting with this issue can find it rather difficult to express themselves. People are discouraged to express themselves in society by phrases like- “just snap out”, “let’s go for a party, it’s nothing” or “mental illness is for losers”. Saying such stuff is wrong and if someone you know talks to you about mental health, you must hear the things they are saying and make them feel heard and loved.

There are certain phrases that one should avoid at all cost, so that the other person doesn't feel judged, like-

1). It’s all in your head

The problems that one faces are not imaginary and are not something they made up. Mental health issues are as real as heart attack and other physical health problems. Do not be dismissive of their problems and feelings. Saying this makes them disregard their emotions and feelings, which can do more harm.

2). Try harder
     They don’t need someone who disregards their efforts, because they are trying hard. This sentence can demoralize them and give them a sense of hopelessness. They are making an effort by seeking help and sharing their problem with you, so you tell them that you are here for them and ask them how you can help them feel better.

3). You don’t look depressed
      Just because you cannot see their struggle does not mean that they are not facing any. Do not show disbelief as it can make them feel bad about themselves and they might even question what they are feeling. It is important to keep your mind open and accept what they are saying.

4). Therapy is for weak people
      Which can be very detrimental for a person dealing with mental health issues. It takes a lot of guts to speak up against mental illness. If someone wants to seek help for their illness, you should not disregard it, rather you should appreciate them for speaking up and seeking help.

 What to say instead?

1)    How can I help you?

2)    Do you want to talk about it? I'm here for you.

3)    I'm sorry that you're going through this. I'm here to help if you need me.

4)   Talk to me, I'm listening.

5)   Do you want my opinion or do you want me to listen?

6)   You'll get through. I’m here for you.

When you make such thoughtful sentences and make a small simple gesture, you make it easier for the person battling with this illness more comfortable and encourage them to open up to you, to share their problems.

Making negative statements can make it difficult for a person to open up, seek support, and make them think of escaping from the situation by addressing harmful ways. Thus, instead of saying something hurtful or ignorant, it's better to learn and frame your words carefully when you are dealing with someone with any mental illness.

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